In Bali Suitcase murder plot, cousin of teen’s boyfriend arrested

In Bali Suitcase murder plot, cousin of teen’s boyfriend arrested

U.S. prosecutors allege a cousin of Heather Mack’s boyfriend conspired with the couple in Bali suitcase murder plot

Tommy Schaefer had just bludgeoned his girlfriend’s mother to death at a Bali resort hotel and was about to stuff her body in a suitcase in August 2014 when he allegedly texted his cousin back in Chicago that “for some reason” he didn’t feel bad.

“She wasn’t a good person,” Robert Bibbs responded in a reference to wealthy Oak Park native Sheila von Wiese-Mack, according to federal prosecutors. “There wasn’t any positive energy released from her body.”

For the next 10 minutes, while Schaefer’s girlfriend, Heather Mack, retrieved the suitcase and luggage cart they’d use to move her mother’s remains to the lobby of the St. Regis Bali resort, Schaefer and Bibbs chatted amiably by text about basketball, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday in Chicago.

The ghoulish banter, peppered with colorful emojis and the typical “LOLs,” was just one electronic conversation contained in shocking charges alleging Bibbs conspired with the couple to kill Mack’s wealthy mother in exchange for a cut of the inheritance.

Bibbs’ arrest comes two weeks after the Tribune revealed a federal probe of the case was ongoing in Chicago even though Mack and Schaefer had been convicted in an Indonesian court in April for their roles in a killing that made headlines around the world.

Federal authorities flew Indonesian law enforcement officials to Chicago at least twice in recent months to answer questions as part of the ongoing investigation, the Tribune reported.

The charges against Bibbs give new insight into the alleged premeditation of the murder. Before Schaefer had even joined his girlfriend on the island retreat, Mack had taken Bibbs’ advice and tried to kill her mother with an overdose of medicine, but she didn’t use enough, prosecutors alleged.

The complaint also contained a series of text messages between Mack and Schaefer on the morning of the slaying that provide a chilling countdown to the slaying. Mack repeatedly implored Schaefer to sneak into the room while her mother was still sleeping and help her get the job done.

“Let me just creep up and whack her,” Schaefer texted to Mack moments before the killing.

“Okay just knock her out,” Mack replied.

The messages contradict Mack and Schaefer’s claims at their trial that Schaefer had struck Wiese-Mack with the handle of a heavy metal fruit stand only after she used a racial slur and tried to choke him during a heated argument. An Indonesian court convicted Schaefer and Mack, sentencing him to 18 years in prison and giving her a 10-year term.

Bibbs, 24, of Chicago, was arrested Wednesday morning on the city’s South Side, prosecutors said. Dressed in a red Coca-Cola T-shirt and jeans, Bibbs kept his hands clasped in front of him in federal court as Assistant U.S. Attorney Bolling Haxall told the judge the charge of conspiracy to commit the foreign murder of a U.S. national carried up to life in prison.

Several of Bibbs’ relatives appeared visibly stunned in the courtroom when the prosecutor announced the charge. Bibbs was ordered held in custody pending a detention hearing on Friday. The family members left the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse a short time later without comment.

Court records show that Bibbs has no serious criminal record. His Facebook page states he graduated from Morgan Park High School and attended Oakwood University in Alabama.

Schaefer’s U.S. lawyer, Thomas Anthony Durkin, said he spoke to his client briefly by phone Wednesday afternoon from his cell in Indonesia, but the connection was cut off. Durkin would not comment on the specific allegations in the complaint.

Mack’s attorney did not return calls.

The mother and daughter had a troubled relationship. Police reported 86 calls for assistance to their former home in Oak Park, including one altercation that resulted in the older woman suffering a broken arm, according to public records. Hoping for a fresh start, von Wiese-Mack moved with her daughter in 2013 to a high-rise Chicago condo overlooking the lakefront.

They arrived in Bali for vacation on Aug. 4, 2014. Unbeknownst to the victim, Schaefer followed them to the resort. His flight, which cost more than $12,000, and room were booked using her credit card. Von Wiese-Mack was dead within hours of his arrival Aug. 12, 2014. After the couple were arrested that next morning at a nearby budget motel, Mack claimed kidnappers killed her mother but that they had escaped.

According to the criminal complaint, before the fateful trip, Bibbs had coached both his cousin and Mack on how to commit the murder without getting caught, either by a drug overdose made to look like an accident or by suffocating her in her sleep.

Once the couple arrived in Bali, Bibbs exchanged numerous messages with Schaefer, many illustrated with emojis, on how best to get the job done, including avoiding any surveillance cameras and keeping it as quiet as possible, the complaint alleged.

In one text suggesting they drown the victim, Bibbs allegedly asked, “Does she swim?” He then followed with a series of emojis of an ocean wave and a sleeping woman’s face, according to the complaint.

Soon after Schaefer checked into the resort on the morning of Aug. 12, he sent a text message to Bibbs that an attempt to kill the mother with an overdose of medicine had failed, the charges alleged.

“Wasn’t enough bro smh (shaking my head) … Definitely need that (emoji of a handgun),” the complaint quoted Schaefer as writing.

Mack, who was sharing a room with her mother, texted Schaefer later in the morning encouraging him to come to her room to carry out the murder while her mother was sleeping, prosecutors said.

“Go sit on her face wit a pillow then,” Bibbs replied.

On Aug. 13, as media reports about the killing and the arrests of Mack and Schaefer were being broadcast across the globe, Bibbs sent a series of texts to a girlfriend expressing shock that his cousin was in jail and concern he could be implicated in the crime, according to the complaint.

“I feel sick to my stomach,” Bibbs allegedly wrote. “I’m numb all I can think it’s my fault. I feel dead.”

When the girlfriend asked why he was worried, Bibbs texted, “Cuz it’s possible proof that could lead back to me,” according to the complaint.

According to the complaint, the girlfriend noted that all he did was send texts. “That doesn’t make you a murderer. So stop,” she wrote, according to the complaint.

Bibbs answered simply, “Idk (I don’t know).”

Source : Chicago Tribun

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