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Teen on trial in Bali for mother's murder files motion in Cook County seeking trust funds to pay for lawyer

By Bethany Krajelis | Jan 15, 2015

A Chicago-area teen accused of killing her socialite mother last year in Bali and stuffing her body in a suitcase is trying to get money from her mom's trust so she can pay for a defense at her upcoming murder trial.

Heather Mack, 19, filed an emergency motion in Cook County Circuit Court on Thursday, the day after she and her 21-year-old boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, appeared in a court half way around the world in Indonesia to face the charge that carries a maximum penalty of death by firing squad.

The motion asks a judge to order Mack's uncle, William A. Wiese, as trustee of her mother's trust, to make $150,000 of the more than $1.5 million in the trust available for her legal defense.

Mack, who is seven months pregnant, and Schaefer are charged with premeditated murder in connection with the August 2014 death of Sheila von Wiese-Mack while they were vacationing at an upscale resort in Bali.

The badly beaten body of von Wiese-Mack was found in a suitcase the couple allegedly loaded into a taxi outside the resort the day after the trio was seen arguing. Mack and Schaefer were taken into custody the next day after police found them in a nearby hotel.

The seven-page emergency motion alleges that Mack "has always maintained her innocence," but "on at least once occasion, [Schaefer] confessed to the Indonesian authorities that he murdered" von Wiese-Mack.

It goes on to explain that Mack is the sole beneficiary of her mother's trust and Wiese, as its trustee, as well as next in line to inherit the funds --about $1.56 million, as of Dec. 30 -- behind Mack and her unborn child.

After being detained, the motion says Mack retained Chicago criminal defense attorney Michael Elkin to represent her in finding lawyers in Indonesia and Vanessa Favia, a family law attorney in Oakbrook Terrace, to represent her unborn child.

The fee agreement for these attorneys was $150,000, but "neither Elkin nor Favia have received any monies for payment to date," according to Mack's recent court filing that notes they helped her obtain counsel through the organization, Reprieve U.S.

Once the two attorneys left Indonesia, Mack alleges she "lost faith in the procured counsel, and irretrievable breakdown in the attorney-client relationship occurred," leading her to terminate the relationship with those lawyers.

Before that, however, Mack consulted with Indonesian attorney, Ary Soenardi. His fee agreement, the filing says, was for $300,000 "due to the cultural taboos of this case, including but not limited to, an unwed mother suspected of killing her own mother, as well as a pending trial in approximately one month."

Mack sent the fee agreement to her uncle for review and to ask for the trust funds, but he refused to approve the contract because it apparently "could allow for bribery, which is against anti-corruption laws," the motion alleges.

In response, Soenardi revised his agreement to lower the retainer price to $150,000, the same as the other attorneys, and Mack forwarded it to her uncle "with a request to simply create an account with the U.S. Consulate or other appropriate authority and to transfer the" funds from her mother's trust into it so she could pay the lawyer before her Wednesday court hearing.

Mack's filing alleges the agreement was sent to Wiese on Monday morning and that denied the request that evening, saying the reduction to the retainer fee was suspect. He apparently said he didn't feel comfortable with her using that attorney and asked Mack to use her original lawyer instead.

Soenardi was at Mack's hearing on Wednesday, but the filing says its unclear whether he is formally representing her as Wiese "has not released one penny to" Mack to assist with her legal costs.

Saying it would be conflict of interest for Wiese to have control over Mack's legal defense, the emergency motion asks a Cook County judge to order Wiese to make the funds available for her legal defense.

Geneva attorney Anthony R. Scifo filed the motion on behalf of Mack, whose late father was musical composer James Mack.

Mack and Schaefer are expected to be tried separately and enter pleas next week.

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