BALI, Indonesia — Lawyers representing an American couple charged with murdering the woman’s mother in Indonesia and stuffing her body in a suitcase argued Wednesday that the indictments are inaccurate and should be annulled.
Heather Mack, 19, and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer, 21, grew up in the Chicago area and attended Oak Park River Forest High School. They are being tried separately at the Denpasar District Court on the resort island of Bali. They could face the firing squad if found guilty of premeditated murder of Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62, whose badly beaten body was found in a suitcase in the trunk of a taxi outside an upscale hotel on Aug. 13.
In their pleas, the lawyers said indictments submitted last week raised questions of whether other people had entered the victim’s room and killed her. They asked the judges to annul the indictment.
Heather Mack and her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, are charged with the murder of Mack’s mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62 (above), whose badly beaten body was found in a suitcase near a Bali resort last year. | Sun-Times Library
Mack and her mother arrived in Bali on Aug. 4 and stayed in Kuta before moving to the St. Regis hotel in Nusa Dua, where they planned to stay in room 317 until Aug. 14. Schaefer arrived Aug. 12 and stayed in the same hotel in room 616, which was booked by Mack under her mother’s name, according to the indictment.
However, the lawyers said the prosecutors cited the wrong room numbers in the indictment’s description of the activities of Schaefer and Mack on the morning of the woman’s death.
According to the indictment, “around 8:30 a.m. Schaefer, with the iron handle of a fruit bowl in his hand, came to room 616, rang the bell and Mack opened the door for him. They then hugged each other and chatted.”
“Why did the defendant Tommy Schaefer, who stayed in room 616, come to room 616 … and who came to room 317?” said Mack’s lawyer, Ni Kadek Sri Novi Wirani.
She asked whether other people had entered room 317 and said inaccuracies in the indictment could lead to multiple interpretations of the suspects’ activities and the crime scene.
Wirani and Iswahyudi Edy, who represented Schaefer, also objected to the citing of communications between the defendants on cellphones as evidence of premeditated murder.
According to the indictment, in their conversations and text messages on Aug. 12, Mack and Schaefer discussed plans to kill von Wiese-Mack and set it up to look like a suicide.
Phone communications “are prone to manipulation, given sophisticated information technology,” Wirani said.
Prosecutors said the couple plotted the murder because von Wiese-Mack did not endorse their relationship, and that Mack once suggested that Schaefer hire someone to kill her mother for $50,000 before their visit to Bali.
An argument over the hotel bill made Mack’s mother angry and she scolded Schaefer, using a racial slur, the indictment said. It said Schaefer then battered her with the fruit bowl handle. Security camera video showed the victim earlier having an argument with Schaefer in the hotel lobby.
Mack, who is seven months’ pregnant, helped stuff her mother’s body in the suitcase by sitting on it to enable Schaefer to close it, the indictment said.
It said the couple then hired a taxi and placed the suitcase in the trunk and told the driver they were going to check out of the hotel and would return, but never did.
Presiding Judge Made Suweda postponed the trial for one week to give prosecutors a chance to prepare their response.
Tommy Schaefer walks to a cell after a hearing earlier this month in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia. | Agung Parameswara/Getty Images