Tommy Schaefer and Heather Mack, charged with the brutal killing of Mack’s mother and Chicago socialite Sheila von Wiese-Mack during a vacation in Bali, traded their bright orange prison vests for clean pressed clothes Tuesday as guards led them into an Indonesian courtroom for the first day of their murder trial.
The bloodied body of von Wiese-Mack, 62, was found on Aug. 12, stuffed in a suitcase in the back of a taxi at the posh resort where she had been staying. Prosecutors charged Schaefer, 21, and Mack, 19, with premeditated murder, which makes the couple eligible for the death penalty.
Their trial, held in Bali’s Denpasar District Court, will resume next week and the couple will enter their pleas at that time. Prosecutors claim that Schaefer beat Mack’s mother with the iron grip of a fruit bowl.
Mack’s mother didn’t approve of her relationship with Schaefer, according to prosecutors. Shortly before her murder, she and Schaefer got into a heated argument, during which she used a racial slur that angered her daughter’s lover.
Lawyers for Mack, who is seven months pregnant with Schaefer’s child, claim that she was hiding in her mother’s hotel room at the time of the murder and helped conceal her mother’s body in a suitcase out of loyalty to the father of her unborn child.
During Tuesday’s session, the panel of judges overseeing the proceedings was also told by prosecutors that before their trip to Bali, Mack had reportedly sent Schaefer a text message proposing that he try and find a hitman to murder her mother for $50,000, according to the Associated Press.
The couple are being tried separately. If convicted, they could face execution by firing squad.