An American couple accused of killing a Chicago-area woman during a vacation in Bali appeared in an Indonesian court Wednesday to face charges of premeditated murder.
Heather Mack, 19, and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer, 21, are accused of plotting to murder Mack’s mother because she disapproved of her daughter’s relationship.
The two Americans are being tried separately in the grisly case.
Sheila von Wiese-Mack’s body was found battered and stuffed in a blood-splattered hard-shell suitcase that the couple allegedly tried to abandon in the back of a cab in August.
In an indictment, prosecutors laid out the events of that day, which they say eventually led Schaefer to strike von Wiese-Mack repeatedly with the iron handle of a fruit bowl, killing her in a room at the five-star St. Regis Bali Resort.
Tensions between mother and daughter had simmered for years. Neighbors in the upscale Chicago suburb where they lived reported frequent fights between the two. Between 2004 and 2014, police were called to the house 86 times, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Indonesian prosecutor Eddy Arta Wijaya alleges that Heather Mack at one point asked her boyfriend to find a hit man willing to kill her mother in the United States for $50,000, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Mack, who is seven months’ pregnant, arrived in Bali with her mother Aug. 4; after staying at a hotel in Kuta, they moved to the luxurious St. Regis, according to the Associated Press.
Von Wiese-Mack apparently did not know that Schaefer planned to join them, but in late July, he announced on Facebook: “Leaving Aug 4th for Indonesia might not come backkk.”
He arrived Aug. 12, apparently after a visa delay.
Mack had quietly booked another hotel room for her boyfriend under her mother’s name, according to the AP, which obtained indictment documents in the case.
About 3 a.m., von Wiese-Mack walked into the lobby looking for her daughter. The on-duty manager informed her that she was actually paying for two rooms and that her daughter might be in the second room with her boyfriend.
“So Tommy Schaefer the thief is here?” von Wiese-Mack asked her daughter in a heated confrontation in the hotel’s lobby, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Mack later returned to the room she shared with her mother, prosecutors told the court, as von Wiese-Mack argued with Schaefer via text message.
Later that morning, at 8:30 a.m, Schaefer arrived at the door and hugged Mack, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. The fighting began again, this time between Schaefer and von Wiese-Mack.
Prosecutors told the court that after von Wiese-Mack uttered a racial slur against Schaefer, he grabbed the metal handle of the fruit bowl and beat her with it.
Schaefer is black; von Wiese-Mack’s late husband — the father of her daughter, Heather — was also black. James L. Mack died of a pulmonary embolism in 2006 while on a family vacation in Greece.
As the fight escalated, Mack ran to the bathroom while Schaefer struck von Wiese-Mack until she stopped moving, according to prosecutors. Mack, they said, later emerged from the bathroom and hugged Schaefer, who told her: “Sheila is dead.”
Later that morning, the couple attempted to check out of the room and called a taxi. They had stuffed von Weise-Mack’s bloody and beaten body into the suitcase, and Heather Mack sat on top of it, trying to force it shut, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The couple put the suitcase in the taxi and never returned, fleeing the hotel through a back entrance.
They were found at a nearby hotel and arrested the next day. They have been charged with premeditated murder, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of death by firing squad.
They also face lesser charges of disposing of a body to conceal a death, which carries a maximum sentence of nine months in prison, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
They will appear in court again Jan. 21.