Lawyer says Americans accused of murder in Indonesia under suicide watch

Associated Press

Bali, Indonesia — An American couple arrested on suspicion of murdering the woman’s mother and stuffing her body into a suitcase in Indonesia are being held under a suicide watch, a lawyer said Wednesday.

Haposan Sihombing, an Indonesian lawyer assigned by Bali police, said Heather Mack and her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, are still refusing to talk to investigators.

The body of Mack’s 62-year-old mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack, was found last week inside a suitcase in the trunk of a taxi in front of an upscale Bali hotel. The couple was arrested the following day at a hotel about 10 six miles away.

Sihombing said Mack, 19, is being detained at the Denpasar police station while Schaefer, 21, is being held separately at the provincial police headquarters. Neither has been charged, but Indonesian police say they are investigating it as a possible case of premeditated murder, which carries a maximum sentence of death.

“All materials that can be used for suicide such as ropes, long trousers, and clothes with straps are being kept away from them,” Sihonbing said.

He said both are continuing to insist that they won’t talk to investigators until the arrival of their American lawyer.

“I’ve told them that it’s better to cooperate, because that could be a reason for a lighter punishment,” Sihombing said.

An autopsy found von Wiese-Mack died of asphyxiation after her nose was broken by a blunt blow. It also showed hand wounds suggesting she was trying to fend off an attack. Her body was flown home early Wednesday.

Von Wiese-Mack, from Chicago, and her daughter arrived at the St. Regis Bali Resort on Aug. 9, while Schaefer checked in two days later, according to police. Security camera video showed that the victim later had an argument with Schaefer in the hotel’s lobby.

Police say Mack and Schaefer placed a suitcase containing von Wiese-Mack’s body inside the trunk of a taxi at the hotel and asked the driver to wait while they checked out of the hotel. However, they didn’t return, and hotel security guards who found blood spots on the suitcase suggested that the driver take the taxi to a police station, where officers opened the suitcase and discovered the body.

The couple told police that von Wiese-Mack was killed by robbers while they managed to escape.

According to police records in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, police were called 86 times in 10 years to the house where von Wiese-Mack and her daughter once lived. The records, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, indicated that von Wiese-Mack was repeatedly and violently abused by the daughter.

Von Wiese-Mack was the widow of highly regarded jazz and classical composer James L. Mack, who died in 2006 at age 76.