According to an Associated Press report this weekend, Indonesian police said a former Oak Park woman who was found beaten to death and stuffed into a suitcase at a Bali resort in August was killed after she taunted her daughter’s boyfriend with a racial slur.
Heather Mack, 19, reportedly told police her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, 21, became angry after Sheila von Wiese Mack, 62, called him the “n-word.” She said Schaefer struck her mother with a metal plant stand from the hotel.
According to AP, Mack’s lawyers said Mack did not confirm whether she witnessed the murder.
“Our client did not mention [whether] the beating was intended to kill her mother or not. She just confessed to the police that Tommy beat her mother,” Mack’s Indonesian lawyer, Raja Nasution, said.
Nasution also said Mack did not kill von Wiese-Mack or help stuff her body into the suitcase.
Tommy Schaefer’s mother, Forest Park resident Kia Walker, is working with the UK-based international anti-death penalty group Reprieve to get a lawyer for her son in Indonesia. Wednesday Journal attempted to contact Reprieve in both the U.K. and U.S. but received no response by Monday morning.
Reprieve helped secure the legal help of Haposan Sihombing, an Indonesian lawyer, but Sihombing had to withdraw because of a potential conflict of interest, said Chicago lawyer Thomas Durkin, who said he is helping the family by working as Schaefer’s U.S. attorney.
Durkin said he did not have expertise in the Indonesian legal system, which was unlike the American or British system.
“It’s a very difficult situation and I’m doing these people a favor,” he said.
Schaefer is African-American, as was James Mack, the husband of the victim. James Mack was a renowned composer and jazz performer who died in 2006.
The AP reported that, according to Indonesian police, during the argument Schaefer pointed out that von Wiese Mack’s husband was black, and she allegedly replied that he was also rich.
Reportedly, Indonesian police said a surveillance video in the St. Regis Hotel shows Schaefer entering von Wiese Mack’s room with the plant stand concealed under his shirt. Bits of iron matching the plant stand were found in the victim’s wounds, Indonesian police said.
Later video from the corridor showed Mack bringing a cart to move the suitcase holding von Wiese Mack’s body and Schaefer carrying the suitcase to the cart. The two abandoned the suitcase in a taxi and escaped through the hotel’s back door. They were arrested the next day at a different hotel near the airport.
Kia Walker’s website asking for donations to help pay her son’s legal fees has reached $10,600. In an update, Walker said she had been advised not to comment publicly on the reports from Indonesia.
“I spent the weekend practicing self-care,” she said on the website.
“So far, $200 has been spent for Tommy’s food expenses and phone privileges. I plan to visit him after charges have been brought. I’ve accomplished a great deal by staying home and being surrounded by my friends and chosen family,” she wrote. “Along with the support of the fund, I am hoping my son receives a fair trial.”