Published December 02, 2015
An American couple arrested in Indonesia on suspicion of murdering the woman's mother and stuffing her body into a suitcase at a resort hotel are being held under a suicide watch, their appointed lawyer said Wednesday.
Haposan Sihombing, an Indonesian lawyer assigned to the couple by Bali police, said Heather Mack and her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, are refusing to talk to investigators. Their American attorney said this week that Heather Mack is two months pregnant and complained about her treatment in custody.
Sihombing said Mack, 19, is being detained at the Denpasar police station while Schaefer, 21, is being held separately at the provincial police headquarters. Neither has been charged, but Indonesian police say they are investigating it as a possible case of premeditated murder, which carries a maximum sentence of death.
"All materials that can be used for suicide such as ropes, long trousers, and clothes with straps are being kept away from them," Sihombing said.
The body of Mack's 62-year-old mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 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.
Von Wiese-Mack's body was being flown back to the U.S. early Wednesday. An autopsy found she had died of asphyxiation after her nose was broken by a blunt blow.
Sihombing said the two are refusing to talk to investigators until the arrival of their American lawyer, Michael Elkin, who was en route to Indonesia on Wednesday.
"I've told them that it's better to cooperate, because that could be a reason for a lighter punishment," Sihombing said.
On Tuesday, Elkin said that Mack told him by phone that she is pregnant and wasn't getting enough water. She also alleged that she was sexually assaulted at least three times in custody, a claim that both Indonesian authorities and Sihombing denied.
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, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, 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 Sun-Times reported that von Wiese-Mack collected more than $800,000 through a 2011 legal settlement, part of which was originally designated for Heather Mack.
Court records showed that von Wiese-Mack and her late husband received the settlement in a lawsuit between the couple and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. A half million dollars of the money went to her husband's estate and was designated for their daughter through an earlier will. But in 2011, a judge allowed von Weise-Mack to pay herself the $500,000 as the estate's "sole beneficiary."