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US teenager detained for mother's murder in Bali is 'vicious little monster': Report

Published on Aug 16, 2014 2:28 PM
Friends of an American woman beaten to death and stuffed in a suitcase in Bali said they had warned her not to take her troublesome teenage daughter Heather Mack along on vacation. -- PHOTO: AFP 

ILLINOIS/BALI - Friends of an American woman beaten to death and stuffed in a suitcase in Bali said they had warned her not to take her troublesome teenage daughter along on vacation.

It also emerged that police had been called to Sheila von Wiese Mack's suburban Chicago home about 86 times over 10 years to break up fights between the wealthy academic and her 19-year-old daughter Heather Mack.

Mail Online quoted a close friend Mark Bacharach as saying that the mother and her daughter had an "often tempestuous relationship". The teenager was a college dropout who was "hanging out with a bad crowd" and had recently moved into a hotel, said the news website.

But Mack tracked down her daughter and despite the fact that she "barely recognised her anymore", the two set off on the 10-day-plus trip to the other side of the globe, where the 62-year-old ultimately met a grisly end, the report said.

Her half-naked body was found in a suitcase loaded into the boot of a taxi in front of the five-star St. Regis hotel in the upscale Nusa Dua resort area. AFP quoted a doctor as saying she had wounds to her head and appeared to have put up a struggle. The suitcase containing her body was smeared with blood and wrapped in a bed sheet.

Her daugher and her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, 21, were arrested in connection with the murder. Indonesian police said they had strong evidence against the young couple, calling the case "premeditated murder". Reuters reported that police on Friday formally designated them as prisoners, although no charges have been pressed.

NBC News quoted the victim's friend, Bacharach, as saying "she overindulged the child".

"At least four or five of us would say to kick her out. She was hanging out with a bad crowd. But Sheila always took her back. (Heather) could be as charming and self-effacingly sweet one minute, and then a vicious little monster the next," he said.

Mail Online reported that police had been called to the Macks' sprawling house 86 times in a 10-year period

"They were all for domestic issues between mother and daughter," said David Powers, communications officer for the Village of Oak Park, where they lived.

"There are no records of any arrests... But for a large portion of that time, the daughter would have been a juvenile, so those records would be sealed, so I can't say for certain,'' he added.

Powers said the calls stopped in June of last year when the mother and daughter moved to a luxury apartment in Chicago overlooking Lake Michigan.

Denpasar police chief Djoko Hariutomo told Fairfax Media that the victim and her daughter had arrived in Bali and checked into St. Regis on Aug 4. Schaeffer joined them on Aug 11.

According to Mail Online, the teenager posted a cryptic message on Instagram on Aug 7 saying "I refuse to let someone say what I can do".

Reports said on Aug 12, the three had publicly argued over who would pay the hotel bill. The victim was heard saying as she had paid for Schaeffer's flight to Bali, the couple should pay for the hotel.

At 11.26am that day, hotel CCTV footage showed the couple in the reception area carrying a large suitcase wrapped in a bedsheet, according to Fairfax Media. They wanted to check out of the hotel immediately, even though they were booked to leave only on Thursday.

The couple reportedly told reception staff that they would not pay the bill because the mother would pay when she checked out later. They also demanded that hotel staff open a safety deposit box and give them the contents, but the staff refused both requests.

After the argument, the couple loaded the suitcase into a taxi and went back into the hotel, saying they needed to get more bags. But they slipped out of the hotel through the back entrance. They were caught the next day.   

Mail Online said the victim did her doctorate at the University of Chicago, studying with Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Saul Bellow for 10 years. She is the widow of the late Chicago composer and conductor James L. Mack, who died in August 2006.

He also died on vacation in a hotel, though of a pulmonary embolism, said the report. He was travelling in Greece at the time with his wife and daughter.