By Kevin Murphy
(Reuters) - A U.S. woman who is being tried in Indonesia for the murder of her mother on the resort island of Bali has filed a lawsuit seeking money from a trust in her alleged victim's name to pay legal bills, court records showed.
The woman, Heather Mack, and her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, could face the death penalty if found guilty of murdering Sheila von Wiese-Mack, whose battered body was found in a bloody suitcase outside a luxury hotel in August.
Mack filed a suit in Chicago on Thursday seeking to transfer $150,000 out of her mother's $1.6 million trust fund to pay her legal expenses, according to her attorney, Anthony Scifo. The money would go to a bank to pay future billed expenses, he said.
Mack is the sole beneficiary of the trust, administered by William Wiese, the dead woman’s brother, Scifo said.
Wiese has an "affirmative duty" to act for her benefit, Scifo said. "He has not provided her with one cent," he said.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled in Cook County Circuit Court on Friday, he said.
Trials for Mack and Schaefer, both from Chicago, began on Wednesday. Neither entered a plea in their initial appearance, and the two are due back in court next week.
Mack, however, maintains her innocence, according to the lawsuit filed in Illinois. She traveled to Bali for a vacation with her mother, the suit states.
Mack, seven months pregnant, is charged with assisting Schaefer in killing von Wiese-Mack, who was 62 at the time of her death.
The couple is accused of stuffing her battered body in a suitcase and dropping it off with other luggage outside a luxury hotel. They could die by firing squad if convicted, Sifco said.
Bali police conducted a four-month investigation into the murder that included a re-enactment of the crime at the luxury hotel where von Wiese-Mack's body was found.
Other evidence submitted to prosecutors included CCTV footage showing the couple speaking to a taxi driver after dropping off the bloodied suitcase.
Mack and her mother had a troubled relationship, and von Wiese-Mack had frequently reported that her daughter had punched and bitten her, according to police reports cited by Chicago media.
Von Wiese-Mack had recently moved to a condominium in Chicago. Her husband and Heather's father, classical music composer James Mack, died in 2006.
(Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City; Editing by Scott Malone and Bernadette Baum)