A Chicago teen and her boyfriend were charged with murder today after her mother’s body was found stuffed into bloody suitcase outside a swanky Bali resort where the family was on vacation, police said.
If tried and convicted there, the couple could face the death penalty by firing squad, under Indonesian law.
Michael Elkin, the Chicago-based attorney for 19-year-old Heather Mack, one of the suspects, said he was aware of reports that she could be sentenced to death by firing squad if convicted overseas, but said that punishment was not likely, and that his immediate concern was to prove his client's innocence.
Mack and her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, 21, were arrested on Wednesday at a hotel about six miles from the scene of the crime, the upscale St. Regis Bali Resort, where they had been staying with Mack’s 62-year-old mother, Sheila von Weise-Mack. They remained in police custody.
The State Department said it was aware that two Americans are being held in Bali and was monitoring the situation, but it was not clear whether or not they will be extradited to the U.S.
A taxi driver told police the couple hailed his cab on Tuesday outside the resort and put a suitcase in the trunk before retreating to the hotel, claiming they needed to check out. When they didn’t return, the taxi driver alerted hotel staff before turning the suitcase over to police, who discovered von Weise-Mack’s beaten body inside, authorities said.
The murder charges were based on witness reports and crime scene evidence, Bali Deputy Police Chief Brig. Gen. Gusti Ngurah Raharja Subyakta said.
CCTV footage showed that von Weise-Mack had an argument with her daughter’s boyfriend in the hotel lobby the day before she was found dead.
Mack and Schaefer originally told police that Mack’s mother had been murdered by gang members but they had escaped, said Col. Djoko Hari Utomo, the police chief in Bali's capital, Denpasar.
At home in Chicago, the mother and daughter had a rocky relationship, a family friend told ABC News.
“Once [Heather] became 18, her mother couldn’t control her anymore,” said Willie Nance, a music producer in Chicago who was good friends with Mack’s father, who died in 2006.
Nance described von Weise-Mack as a “beautiful person” who adored her daughter but didn’t always approve of the teen’s friends. Mack often ran away from home and refused to answer her mother’s calls, he said.
Police were a common sight outside the family’s former home in Oak Park, Illinois, an upscale Chicago suburb, neighbors said. Police said they responded to 86 calls in less than 10 years to that address, mostly missing-person reports and domestic problems.
Mack's attorney maintained that she had nothing to do with her mother's death. It was not clear if Schaefer had a lawyer.
Von Weise-Mack was the widow of James Mack, a popular composer and producer who also died while on vacation -- of an aneurysm while in Athens, Greece, according to an obituary published in The Chicago Sun-Times.