Police investigating a Chicago couple suspected of killing the woman's mother at a resort hotel on Indonesia's Bali island said Thursday the three had a disagreement over who was paying for the rooms, but that a motive for the crime has not been established.
Heather Lois Mack and her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, have been declared suspects in the killing of Mack's 62-year-old mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack, whose body was stuffed into a suitcase.
Police last week announced the pair were "charged" with murder but later said that wasn't the case. Under Indonesia’s civil law tradition, suspects are only charged during their first appearance in court. Mack and Schaefer remain in custody as the investigation continues but haven't yet appeared in front of a judge. If found guilty of premeditated murder, both could be sentenced to death by firing squad under Article 340 of Indonesia's Criminal Code.
Bali police chief Maj. Gen. Benny Mokalu said officers had interviewed 19 witnesses, some of whom cited a disagreement between the three over who should pay for the rooms.
Mokalu said a motive for the killing has not been established.
An Indonesian lawyer appointed to the couple, Haposan Sihombing, said Wednesday the suspects were being held under a suicide watch and were still refusing to talk to investigators. Their American attorney, Michael Elkin, said that Mack is two months pregnant. He said Lois Mack alleged that she'd been sexually assaulted while in police custody.
Previous reports put Lois Mack's age at 19 but Elkin on Monday told NBC Chicago that his client won't be 19 for a few more months.
Von Wiese-Mack's body 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 next day at a hotel about six miles away.
The couple told police that von Wiese-Mack was killed by robbers, while they managed to escape. Security camera video showed that the victim earlier had an argument with Schaefer in the first hotel's lobby.
According to police records in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, officers were called 86 times in 10 years to the house where von Wiese-Mack and her daughter once lived. The records 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.
On Wednesday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that von Wiese-Mack collected more than $800,000 through a 2011 legal settlement, part of which was originally designated for Mack.
An autopsy found Wiese-Mack died of asphyxiation after her nose was broken by a blunt blow. Her body was flown back to Chicago on Tuesday.