Prosecutor: Chicagoans' murder trial in Bali should proceed

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Heather Mack and Tommy Schaefer on the first day of their murder trials in Bali, Indonesia.

BALI, Indonesia -- Indonesian prosecutors said Wednesday the trial of an American couple charged with murdering the woman's mother should proceed, defending their indictment against defense arguments that it has inaccuracies and should be annulled.

The badly beaten body of Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62, was found in a suitcase in the trunk of a taxi outside an upscale hotel in Bali last year.

Heather Mack, 19, and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer, 21, both from Chicago, are being tried separately with the same judges and prosecutors teams at the Denpasar District Court on Bali.

Prosecutors charged them with premeditated murder, which carries a possible death penalty.

The couple's lawyers said last week that the prosecutors' indictment contained inaccuracies that could lead to multiple interpretations of the suspects' activities and the crime scene, raising questions of whether other people had entered the victim's room and killed her.

They also objected to the citing of communications between the defendants on cellphones as evidence of premeditated murder, arguing that cellphone communications are prone to manipulation.

Based on these arguments, they asked the judges to annul the indictment.

But in their response Wednesday, state prosecutors told the court that their indictment is fully qualified both formally and materially according to the law.

"Our indictment as well as charges are very clear," said chief prosecutor Eddy Arta Wijaya. "Let's prove it through witnesses' testimonies and evidences in the next hearings."

In their indictment, prosecutors said the couple plotted the murder because von Wiese-Mack did not endorse their relationship, and that Mack once suggested that Schaefer hire someone to kill her mother for $50,000 before their visit to Bali.

It said that an argument over the hotel bill made Mack's mother angry and she scolded Schaefer, using a racial slur, and Schaefer then battered her with the fruit bowl handle.

Mack, who is seven months' pregnant, helped stuff her mother's body in the suitcase by sitting on it to enable Schaefer to close it, the indictment said. They then hired a taxi and placed the suitcase in the trunk and told the driver they were going to check out of the hotel and would return, but never did.

Presiding Judge Made Suweda postponed the trial until Monday where the judge panel would decide whether or not to proceed.