Trials of US couple charged with murder begin in Indonesia

AP News
Posted: Jan 14, 2015 7:28 AM
Trials of US couple charged with murder begin in Indonesia

BALI, Indonesia (AP) — An American couple went on trial in Indonesia on Wednesday on charges of murdering the woman's mother last year on the resort island of Bali.

The badly beaten body of Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62, was found in a suitcase in the trunk of a taxi outside an upscale hotel.

Heather Mack, 19, and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer, 21, both from Chicago, are being tried separately at the Denpasar District Court on Bali. The judges and prosecutors are the same in both trials.

Prosecutors charged them with premeditated murder, which carries a possible death penalty. Mack and Schaefer said they understood the charges. They are to enter pleas when the trial resumes next week.

Mack earlier told investigators that Schaefer beat her mother during an argument, according to her lawyer.

They were arrested on Aug. 13, a day after von Wiese-Mack's body was found in the taxi at the St. Regis Bali Resort.

In the indictments, obtained by The Associated Press, prosecutors said the couple plotted the murder because von Wiese-Mack did not endorse their relationship.

The prosecutors said Mack, who is now seven months' pregnant, once suggested that Schaefer hire someone to kill her mother for $50,000 before their visit to Bali.

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 until Aug. 14.

Schaefer arrived Aug. 12 and stayed at the same hotel in a room booked by Mack under her mother's name.

Prosecutors said that made Mack's mother angry and led to an argument in which von Wiese-Mack, who was white, scolded Schaefer, using a racial slur. Schaefer is black, as was Mack's father, James L. Mack, a highly regarded jazz and classical composer who died in 2006.

They said Schaefer then battered her with the iron grip of a fruit bowl.

Security camera video showed the victim earlier having an argument with Schaefer in the hotel lobby.

The indictment said the couple hired a taxi and placed the suitcase containing the body in the trunk and told the driver they were going to check out of the hotel and would return, but never did.