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Police: Boyfriend confesses to Bali suitcase death

A Chicago man has confessed to killing his girlfriend's 62-year-old mother, and the girlfriend has said she helped him stuff the body in a suitcase, police said Friday.
Credit: (Photo: Firdia Lisnawati, AP)
An Indonesian police officer escorts Tommy Schaefer, left, as he is brought to the police station for questioning on Aug. 13, 2014. (Photo: Firdia Lisnawati, AP)

BALI, Indonesia — A Chicago man has confessed to killing his girlfriend's 62-year-old mother, and the girlfriend has said she helped him stuff the body in a suitcase, police said Friday.

The confessions of Tommy Schaefer, 21, and Heather Mack,19, in the death of Sheila von Wiese Mack came during separate interrogations, according to Djoko Heru Utomo, chief of police in Bali's capital of Denpasar.

The death occurred Aug. 12, a day after Sheila Mack had a shouting match with her daughter and Schaefer in the lobby of the St. Regis Hotel, Djoko said.

Several hotel staff heard Sheila Mack argue that since she had paid for Schaefer's flight to Bali, Schaefer should pay for his room, according to reception desk manager Nizella, who like many Indonesians, goes by one name. The Macks were staying in one room and Schaefer another.

"He was hurt and offended by the victim's words in an argument with him," Djoko said. "That is the motive for the murder."

Sheila Mack's brother, William Wiese, told the Chicago Tribune he didn't think his sister had expected Schaefer to show up there. The Macks arrived a week before Schaefer.

"I think she was hoping it would be a fresh start for her and Heather," Wiese said, referring to dozens of police responses over the years to trouble between mother and daughter at Sheila Mack's home. "She was such an optimist. She was forever trying to help that girl."

Police say they have considerable evidence tying the suspects to the murder, including security-camera footage from the hallway leading to Sheila Mack's room, bloody fingerprints on the suitcase, the heavy glass ornament believed to be the murder weapon, and DNA from blood on Schaefer's and Heather Mack's clothes.

One security-camera video showed Schaefer hiding something under his shirt while entering the Macks' room before the murder,

police said.

Sheila Mack died of asphyxiation when her nose was broken, blocking her air supply, coroner Ida Bagus Putu Alit said.

The suspects wheeled a baggage cart containing Sheila Mack's body to a taxi in front of the St. Regis, Nizella said. Schaefer and Heather Mack then told the driver to wait, before slipping away to another hotel, leaving the suitcase behind, according to Nizella.

The question of whether the murder was premeditated will play a key role in sentencing if the suspects are found guilty.

If convicted of a planned murder, each will face execution by firing squad or life in prison with no possibility of parole. If convicted of a heat-of-the-moment killing, they will face 15 years in prison, with the possibility of release in 12 years for good behavior.

Foster reported from Portland, Ore. Contributing: The Associated Press