Thursday 18 December 2014

Teen daughter of American woman found dead in suitcase at luxury resort demands US lawyer

Published 14/08/2014 | 06:50

A police officer escorts suspect Lois Heather (19) during an investigation at a police office in Nusa Dua on Indonesian resort island of Bali
An officer escorts Tommy Schaefer, left, to the police station for questioning in relation to the death of his girlfriend's mother in Bali, Indonesia (AP)

The teenage daughter of an American woman found dead inside a suitcase on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali has asked for US legal representation, an Indonesian lawyer said.

Police arrested the daughter, Heather Mack, 19, and her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, 21, on Wednesday after a taxi driver found a battered body in a suitcase outside the St. Regis luxury hotel in Nusa Dua, Bali.

The body was identified by hospital officials as Chicago-based Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62.

"She doesn't want to comment on the incident and she declined to give any information," Haposan Sihombing, an Indonesian lawyer appointed by police to represent Mack, told Reuters late on Wednesday.

"She kept asking to be represented by a lawyer from the United States," Sihombing said.

Neither Mack nor Schaefer have been charged.

The US State Department is aware of reports of a US citizen's death in Bali and the arrests of two people in connection with the case, said a State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf.

She declined to give details due to privacy considerations.

"Obviously we are monitoring it and will provide any consular access as appropriate," Harf said.

Police said the young couple left a bloodied suitcase along with other luggage in the taxi and went to check out of the five-star hotel, where a single room can cost as much as $1,340 a night.

The couple did not return so the taxi driver checked the luggage and found the body.

Ida Bagus Putu Alit, a forensic expert at the hospital that conducted an autopsy, said von Wiese-Mack had been "hit by a blunt object and the blows were concentrated on the face and head".

"There were signs of a struggle by the victim as there were bruises on her arms and some fingers were broken," Alit said.

A St Regis hotel official said the apparent murder was believed to have taken place in a room booked by Schaefer.

HANDCUFFS

Mack and Schaefer were apprehended at a budget hotel about 1.6 km (1 mile) away from the St. Regis hotel after a day-long police search.

Staff at the Risata Bali resort said they were immediately suspicious of the couple after they checked in without any luggage.

Risata Bali security confirmed their identities after Schaefer asked resort staff for a voucher to use the Internet and they alerted authorities, said Nyoman Wija, a hotel manager.

Television footage showed the two being questioned by police with Schaefer in handcuffs. At one point, Mack is shown shielding her face with her hand asking a police official why a cameraman was being allowed to film her.

The Mack family lived for a number of years in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois.

Oak Park spokesman David Powers said on Wednesday police responded to 86 calls from the Mack home due to incidents between mother and daughter from 2004 through to June 2013.

No arrests were ever made from the calls, which were a combination of reports of domestic violence, theft, missing person and 911 hang-ups, Powers said.

Von Wiese-Mack more recently had moved to a condominium in Chicago. Her husband and the father of Heather, classical music composer James Mack, died in 2006.

Laura Voigt, a pianist in Oak Park and friend to James Mack, said she remembered seeing mother and daughter fight outside the local high school one morning.

"I was worried about Sheila," Voigt said.

Von Wiese-Mack had worked as an editor for famed oral historian Studs Terkel and later studied with writer Saul Bellow at the University of Chicago.

Georgia Parchem, a neighbour and friend in Oak Park, said von Wiese-Mack was a "lovely, charming woman" and the Macks often held parties involving "artists and friends from all over the city".

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