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FBI investigating whether others were involved in the death of Heather Mack's mother
Mar-15-2017 237 0


The FBI is actively investigating whether "additional people" were involved in a conspiracy by Heather Mack and her then-boyfriend to murder Mack's mother during a luxury vacation in Bali, a court filing made public Friday revealed.

The disclosure came in a search warrant seeking to extract information from Mack's iPhone, which was confiscated after her arrest in Bali in 2014 but remained locked because she refused to give investigators her password, court records show.

The phone had remained in the custody of Indonesian authorities until December, when it was turned over to the FBI in Jakarta and later brought to Chicago.

Mack, 21, and her ex-boyfriend Tommy Schaefer, 23, were convicted by an Indonesian jury in 2015 of killing Sheila von Wiese-Mack and stuffing her body into a suitcase at a Bali resort hotel. Both are serving prison sentences — 10 years for Mack and 18 years for Schaefer.

Federal prosecutors had asked that the search warrant remain sealed, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez denied the request on Thursday.

Despite the couple's conviction, the warrant makes clear that the investigation into the murder continues — in part "to determine whether additional people may have been aware of and involved in the conspiracy."

The warrant's 29-page affidavit, filed under seal on Jan. 4, sought to have the phone analyzed by an FBI forensic specialist to extract text messages, call records, photographs and at least one "Facetime" chat Mack had with Schaefer during their trip to Bali, records show. If the specialist was unable to unlock the phone, prosecutors planned to serve Apple with a search warrant request for access to the device, the warrant said.

The warrant was filed as part of the case against Robert Bibbs, a cousin of Schaefer's who pleaded guilty in Chicago in December to helping plan the murder in exchange for $50,000 of Mack's expected inheritance money.

The confirmation of an ongoing federal investigation comes a year and a half after the Chicago Tribune first revealed that U.S. authorities had flown Indonesian law enforcement officials to Chicago at least twice in 2015 to answer questions about the murder.

Besides the murder itself, the victim's family has long questioned whether the daughter's $1.56 million trust fund might have been accessed to illegally bribe Indonesian officials during the criminal proceedings, the Tribune has reported.

The FBI, which has an office in the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, was involved in the murder investigation from the onset. Besides ensuring that the victim's body was flown back to the United States, federal agents assisted Bali police with technical support related to texts and emails on phones that belonged to the victim and Schaefer, records show.

After Mack and Schaefer were charged, a Cook County judge overseeing the trust fund case allowed about $150,000 to be wired in increments to the daughter's overseas criminal attorney. But after she had been found guilty, the judge balked at a demand for another $200,000 in one lump sum to pay for legal costs related to the appeal.

Lawyers have since been trying to hammer out a settlement with Mack in the trust matter, but their efforts have been unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, an unusual custody battle is playing out involving the daughter born to Mack and Schaefer while the two were awaiting trial. The girl, Stella, is next in line for the money.

Under Indonesian custom, she has been allowed to stay with her mother behind bars until her 2nd birthday on St. Patrick's Day. The girl's paternal grandmother has petitioned to become her legal guardian, but a Cook County judge refused the emergency request last week.


   
     

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