US couple's murder trial to go ahead in Indonesia

JAKARTA – An American couple will stand trial over the murder of the woman’s mother, an Indonesian court said Monday.

The tribunal said the case against Heather Mack, 19, and boyfriend Tommy Schaefer, 21, will resume on Wednesday at Denpasar District Court in Bali.

Their lawyers had sought to annul the indictment on the grounds that it contained inaccuracies.

"The indictment is fully qualified both formally and materially according to the law," Judge Made Suweda said. "Therefore, the defense objections are rejected."

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

Mack and Schaefer, both from Chicago, are being tried separately on charges of premeditated murder. They face execution by firing squad if convicted.

The prosecution claims the couple plotted to murder von Wiese-Mack because she did not approve of their relationship and that Mack suggested Schaefer should hire someone to kill her mother.

"Heather Lois Mack wanted her mother, Sheila Ann von Weise-Mack, to die and asked Tommy Schaefer to find people to kill her mother for $50,000," prosecutor Eddy Artha Wijaya said in the indictment.

It is alleged that in an argument over a hotel bill, Schaefer beat von Wiese-Mack with a metal fruit bowl handle.

Mack, who is seven months' pregnant, is said to have helped put her mother's body into the suitcase. The couple then hired a taxi and put the suitcase in the trunk before vanishing.

Defense lawyers had argued that inaccuracies in the indictment could lead to different interpretations of what happened, raising questions about whether von Wiese-Mack was killed by another party.

They also protested about the prosecution’s claim that the couple sent each other text messages about a plan to disguise the murder as suicide, claiming that cellphone communications could be manipulated.

According to police reports cited by the media in Chicago, Mack and her mother had a troubled relationship with von Wiese-Mack frequently reporting her daughter for assaulting her.

Mother and daughter arrive in Bali on Aug. 4 last year for a holiday and were due to return to the U.S. on Aug. 15. Schaefer arrived on Aug. 12 and stayed in the one of the rooms booked under von Wiese-Mack’s name.

Mack's father was jazz and classical composer James L. Mack, who died in 2006.

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