Indonesian police on Friday said a Chicago man has confessed that he killed his girlfriend's mother in a Bali hotel, and the girlfriend has acknowledged helping him stuff the body into a suitcase.
Heather Mack, 19, and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer, 21, were arrested in Bali on Aug. 13, a day after the body of Sheila von Wiese-Mack was found in a suitcase inside the trunk of a taxi at the St. Regis Bali Resort.
Police chief Col. Djoko Heru Utomo said Friday that Schaefer confessed during an interrogation on Monday and that Mack acknowledged her role in separate questioning later this week.
Attempts to reach their Indonesian lawyers were not immediately successful.
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Utomo said Schaefer confessed that he killed the woman after an argument.
An attorney earlier this week was assigned to represent Mack's unborn child.
Mack and Schaefer, were arrested in Bali's Kuta area, a day after the body of Sheila von Wiese-Mack was found inside the trunk of a taxi parked in front of the St. Regis Bali Resort. They were charged with murder two days later. If found guilty, both could be sentenced to death under Article 340 of Indonesia's Criminal Code.
An autopsy found that von Wiese-Mack, 62, died of asphyxiation from a broken nose bone resulting from a blunt blow, said Ida Bagus Putu Alit, head of forensics at Sanglah Hospital in Bali's provincial capital of Denpasar. She also suffered from a broken neck, Alit said.
The autopsy found that breaks in von Wiese-Mack's neck and nose extended to her upper right and left jaws, causing respiratory disorders, Alit said. It also showed hand wounds suggesting she was trying to fend off an attack.
"We also found blood aspiration, which meant the victim was standing when assaulted," Alit said. "The conclusion is that the victim suffocated from lack of oxygen because of influx of blood from the broken nose bone."
Bali's deputy police chief, Brig. Gen. Gusti Ngurah Raharja Subyakta, meanwhile said psychological tests showed that there were no psychiatric disorders with the couple charged in the death.
Von Wiese-Mack and her daughter arrived at the St. Regis on Aug. 9, while Schaefer checked in on Monday, two days later, according to police. Security camera video showed that the victim had an argument with Schaefer on Monday in the hotel's lobby.
Police say Mack and Schaefer placed the suitcase inside the trunk of the taxi, and asked the driver to wait while they checked out of the hotel. However, they didn't return, and hotel security guards who had 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 investigators that von Wiese-Mack was killed by robbers while they managed to escape, Utomo said.
Authorities in the upscale Chicago suburb of Oak Park said records showed 86 incidents in which police were called to the family's house in Oak Park where von Wiese-Mack lived with her daughter. Friends and neighbors said the mother-daughter relationship was sometimes contentious.
The calls started in 2004 and lasted through June 2013, according to village of Oak Park spokesman David Powers, who also said the family moved out about a year ago. The bulk of the calls were missing-person reports, and others included domestic problems and theft.
Powers didn't have details about the calls, but said none resulted in arrests. He added there were a number of emergency 911 calls made from the residence in which the caller hung up, and, as is standard procedure, the police department sent a squad car to investigate.
Von Wiese-Mack was the widow of highly regarded jazz and classical composer James L. Mack of Oak Park, Illinois, who died in 2006 at age 76.
In 2012, von Wiese-Mack joined a century-old Chicago book club called the Caxton Club. She had varied interests including Asian literature and Wagnerian opera, according to a May 2013 profile of her in the club's publication Caxtonian.
Elkin said Heather Mack hired him on Thursday and said the allegations against his client would be "disproved as the investigation continues."