US woman accused of killing mother in Bali wins funds from her estate

KANSAS CITY (REUTERS) - A US judge on Friday ruled that a Chicago woman who is being tried in Indonesia for the murder of her mother on the resort island of Bali should be allowed access to a trust in her alleged victim’s name to pay legal bills.

The woman, Heather Mack, and her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, could face the death penalty if found guilty of murdering Sheila von Wiese-Mack, whose battered body was found in a bloody suitcase outside a luxury hotel in August.

Mack filed a lawsuit in Chicago on Thursday seeking to transfer US$150,000 (S$200,000) out of her mother’s nearly US$1.6 million trust fund to pay her legal expenses.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Neil Cohen in Chicago ruled after a hearing on Friday that Mack is entitled to trust fund money and he called for another hearing next week to discuss the amount and conditions, said Blanca Jara, spokeswoman for the court.

Mack is the sole beneficiary of the trust, administered by William Wiese, the dead woman’s brother, said her attorney, Anthony Scifo.

Wiese has an “affirmative duty” to act for her benefit, Scifo said before the hearing.

“He has not provided her with one cent,” he said.

Cohen said he wants to make sure that Mack’s lawyer in Indonesia is qualified and also said he would appoint a retired judge as temporary trustee to oversee payments from von Wiese-Mack’s assets, Jara said.

Trials for Mack and Schaefer began on Wednesday.

Neither entered a plea in their initial appearance, and the two are due back in court next week.

Mack, however, maintains her innocence, according to the lawsuit filed in Illinois.

She travelled to Bali for a vacation with her mother, the lawsuit states.

Mack, seven months pregnant, is charged with assisting Schaefer in killing von Wiese-Mack, who was 62 at the time of her death.

The couple is accused of stuffing her battered body in a suitcase and dropping it off with other luggage outside a luxury hotel. Bali police conducted a four-month investigation into the murder that included a re-enactment of the crime.

Mack and her mother had a troubled relationship, and von Wiese-Mack had frequently reported that her daughter had punched and bitten her, according to police reports cited by Chicago media.

Von Wiese-Mack had recently moved to a condominium in Chicago.

Her husband and Heather’s father, classical music composer James Mack, died in 2006.