Police designate couple 'prisoners' after killing of American in Bali

DENPASAR Indonesia Fri Aug 15, 2014 8:47am EDT

Heather Mack, the daughter of an American woman found dead inside a suitcase on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali,  gestures while in custody in a police station in Denpasar  August 14, 2014.  REUTERS/Putu Setia

Heather Mack, the daughter of an American woman found dead inside a suitcase on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali, gestures while in custody in a police station in Denpasar August 14, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Putu Setia

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DENPASAR Indonesia (Reuters) - Indonesian police on Friday formally designated an American couple prisoners in connection with the death of a Chicago-based woman whose body was found in a bloodied suitcase on the resort island of Bali.

No charges have been pressed over the murder of Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62, whose battered body was found by a taxi driver outside the St. Regis luxury hotel in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Tuesday.

Her daughter, Heather Mack, 19, and boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, 21, were arrested on Wednesday and detained as suspects.

Police designated the two prisoners after they were held for more than 48 hours, as is the practice in Indonesia, their lawyer said.

"According to the police, yes they will stand trial for murder but due process must be followed first," Haposan Sihombing, the couple's appointed Indonesian lawyer, told Reuters.

In contrast to most Western legal systems, suspects are not formally charged with a crime until after an investigation is completed and a trial begins.

Police provided CCTV footage showing the couple speaking to the taxi driver after dropping off the bloodied suitcase along with other luggage outside the five-star St. Regis Hotel on Tuesday.

Police said the two left, apparently to check-out of the hotel, and never returned.

They were later arrested at a nearby budget hotel.

As part of their investigation, police were looking at the possibility of premeditated murder, a crime that carries the death sentence, a police spokesman, Hery Wiyanto, said earlier.

"Did they prepare the suitcase before the murder? Did they leave the room to prepare weapons? The investigation still has a long way to go," Wiyanto said.

Police said the investigation could take weeks.

On Thursday, police said they had run psychiatric tests on the teenage daughter of the slain American woman, formerly an editor for famed oral historian Studs Terkel who later studied with Nobel literature laureate Saul Bellow at the University of Chicago.

An official at the hospital that conducted the autopsy said von Wiese-Mack had been repeatedly hit on the face and head with a blunt object.

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.

(Writing by Randy Fabi; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Robert Birsel)

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