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Teen's Attorney Says She Wasn't Involved In Mom's Gruesome Death In Bali

Updated 08/14/14 - 11:19 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Chicago attorney said Thursday he's been hired by a 19-year-old woman who was arrested in Indonesia this week, after her mother's body was found stuffed inside a suitcase, and he said his client was not involved in her mother's death.

Heather Mack was arrested in Bali on Tuesday, after 62-year-old Sheila von Wiese Mack was found beaten to death, her body stuffed into a suitcase, outside an upscale resort on the island of Bali on Tuesday.

Attorney Michael Elkin said any allegations Mack was involved in her mother's death are not true.

"She denies any involvement," he said.

Elkin said he's been retained by Mack to help secure legal counsel in Indonesia. He said it would be up to her attorney in Indonesia to decide what role Elkin will play in any legal proceedings.

He said he spoke to Mack while a security guard was present, so it was only a brief discussion of the case.

Authorities in Indonesia have said Mack, and her boyfriend, 21-year-old Tommy Schaefer, were arrested Tuesday in connection with von Wiese-Mack's death. Mack and Schaefer have not been charged, but have been detained as suspects.

Elkin has only met Mack a few times, but when she decided to contact a U.S. attorney shortly before her arrest, it was his number she dialed, in tears. He was speaking out Thursday to counter media reports that, in his view, have depicted Mack as a monster.

He said Mack called because she was thinking of going to the authorities for help, and she sounded numb.

"It appeared to me that she was trying to keep it together," Elkin said. "She needed assistance in getting to the embassy and how to go about it."

Elkin said he advised Mack to go to the U.S. consulate, but she never made it. Instead she and Schaefer were arrested, and were being held as suspects in von Wiese-Mack's murder.

The Chicago Tribune reported police have conducted blood and psychiatric tests on the couple as they try to determine a motive.

Television images showed Mack laughing while in police custody, and telling reporters "you're crazy."

She reportedly refused to talk to a court-appointed attorney, demanding to contact an American attorney.

Elkin spoke with Mack on Thursday, and advised her to say nothing other than request an attorney.

"The conversation that took place with her happened when there was a guard or some kind of police officer from the Bali area, and he was present in the room," he said.

Although in America, a suspect can only be held for a few days without charges, Elkin said Indonesian law allows suspects to be held up to 20 days.

Elkin has not been to Indonesia to see his client in person. He said he's not representing Schaefer, and he asked Indonesian authorities to tell him nothing about Schaefer's case.

Von Wiese-Mack and her daughter had been staying at the St. Regis Bali resort for a few days before Schaefer showed up on Monday, and checked in to a separate room. Police said what happened when Mack and Schaefer checked out Tuesday triggered a full-blown murder investigation.

Sheila von Wiese-Mack
Sheila von Wiese-Mack (Credit: Caxton Club)

The couple hailed a taxi Tuesday afternoon, loaded the trunk with their suitcases, and then told the driver they were going into the hotel to check out.

After approximately two hours, when they had not returned, hotel security guards noticed blood stains on the suitcase, and told the driver to take his cab to the police station. That's where police discovered von Wiese-Mack's body inside the suitcase, wrapped in a white bed sheet stained with blood.

Hotel security video showed the couple had fled the hotel through a back door after leaving the suitcase in the trunk of the taxi. Mack and Schaefer were tracked down several hours later and arrested.

Police said hotel security cameras recorded Schaefer arguing with von Wiese-Mack the night before, but the motive for the murder is unclear.

According to published reports, Mack and Schaefer told police they were abducted at the resort by an armed gang who killed von Wiese-Mack, but they managed to escape.

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