US Man Jailed For 18 Years Over Suitcase Murder

Tommy Schaefer
A US man was jailed for 18 years Tuesday for brutally murdering his pregnant girlfriend's mother and stuffing her body into a suitcase outside a luxury hotel on the Indonesian resort island of Bali

Judges said Tommy Schaefer had been proven "legally and convincingly" guilty and handed him the jail term for the murder of Sheila von Wiese Mack, a killing that shocked the popular tourist destination and was described by prosecutors as "sadistic".

The 21-year-old wept earlier in the hearing as judges read out the details of the case but appeared calm at the moment the verdict and sentence were handed down, an AFP journalist in the court said.

Tommy Schaefer, 21, waits inside a holding cell at a court in Denpasar, Indonesia's Bali island, on March 31, 2015

Tommy Schaefer, 21, waits inside a holding cell at a court in Denpasar, Indonesia's Bali island, on March 31, 2015 ©Sonny Tumbelaka (AFP/File)

The jail term was the same as that recommended by prosecutors. But he escaped a death sentence, the maximum term for premeditated murder in Indonesia.

The court in Bali's provincial capital Denpasar was due to hand down its verdict later Tuesday in the case of Heather Mack, 19, Schaefer's girlfriend and the victim's daughter, also accused of involvement in the murder.

Prosecutors have called for a 15-year jail term for the daughter, who gave birth to a baby girl last month. She is also accused of premeditated murder, and could be handed the death penalty as judges are not obliged to follow sentence recommendations.

- Bali shocked by murder -

Von Wiese Mack's badly beaten body was discovered in a taxi outside an upmarket resort on Bali last August. After her killing, the couple -- from the Chicago area -- fled to another part of Bali where police arrested them.

Schaefer confessed to the killing during his trial but claimed he was defending himself during a blazing row with von Wiese Mack, who was unhappy that her daughter was pregnant.

Prosecutors alleged that Schaefer "blindly hit" von Wiese Mack with a fruit bowl in a fit of rage after she directed a racial slur at him. Schaefer is black.

While her mother was being murdered, Mack hid in the bathroom and the couple then stuffed the body into the suitcase together, according to her indictment. She maintains her innocence

The pair were tried separately.

Handing down the verdict in Schaefer's case, presiding judge Made Suweda said he was "legally and convincingly guilty of committing a premeditated murder".

Mack's baby girl, Stella, is staying with her in Bali's notorious Kerobokan jail, where prisoners live in cramped, unsanitary conditions and drug abuse is widespread.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune newspaper in February, Mack said that she was "petrified" and revealed that she was sharing a cell with 10 other women.

"I loved my mom with all my heart and miss her every day," she said.

The case involved a lengthy investigation, with assistance from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Locals and foreigners alike were horrified at the rare murder on Bali, a pocket of Hinduism in Muslim-majority Indonesia that attracts millions of foreign tourists to its palm-fringed, pristine beaches each year.

Foreign visitors sometimes run into trouble on the tropical island, although it is normally when they fall foul of Indonesia's tough anti-drugs laws, which include the death penalty for smuggling narcotics.

Heather Mack (C) arrives at a court in Denpasar, Indonesia's Bali island, on April 14, 2015

Heather Mack (C) arrives at a court in Denpasar, Indonesia's Bali island, on April 14, 2015 ©Sonny Tumbelaka (AFP/File)

Tommy Schaefer, pictured during his trial in Denpasar, Indonesia's Bali island, on March 31, 2015

Tommy Schaefer, pictured during his trial in Denpasar, Indonesia's Bali island, on March 31, 2015 ©Sonny Tumbelaka (AFP/File)

 
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By Abe Manuel 04/21/2015 06:52:00
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