Paternal grandmother of Heather Mack's daughter petitions for custody

The toddler lives in a Bali prison, raised by a mother convicted of helping commit murder while on a luxury island vacation, but now the little girl's paternal grandmother is petitioning for guardianship to bring her back to the Chicago area.Stella Schaefer...

Paternal grandmother of Heather Mack's daughter petitions for custody

The toddler lives in a Bali prison, raised by a mother convicted of helping commit murder while on a luxury island vacation, but now the little girl's paternal grandmother is petitioning for guardianship to bring her back to the Chicago area.

Stella Schaefer was born in Indonesia on March 17, 2015, as her parents, Heather Mack and Tommy Schaefer, faced charges in the slaying of Mack's mother, 62-year-old Sheila von Wiese-Mack, whose battered body was discovered stuffed in a suitcase in 2014. The young couple were convicted and sentenced to prison, but Mack has been allowed to care for Stella behind bars until the child turns two, per Indonesian custom.

As Stella's second birthday approaches next month, the little girl's fate outside of prison is expected be decided in the coming weeks. Kia Walker, Schaefer's mother, filed for guardianship of Stella on Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court.

"My granddaughter deserves an equal opportunity to a better start at life, and she deserves to know her grandmother," said Walker, 44 of Forest Park, in a phone interview. "I believe it is in her best interest that she's brought back to America."

Heather Mack and baby Stella Courtesy of attorney Michael Elkin

Heather Mack, with her baby, Stella, has cared for her daughter since she gave birth to her in March 2015 while behind bars in Bali. She is serving a 10-year sentence for her mother's murder.

Heather Mack, with her baby, Stella, has cared for her daughter since she gave birth to her in March 2015 while behind bars in Bali. She is serving a 10-year sentence for her mother's murder.

(Courtesy of attorney Michael Elkin)

Mack, 21, and two attorneys who have represented her did not immediately return requests for comment.

Walker has had regular contact with Schaefer and has visited him in prison, and he has indicated he wants Stella to be raised by Walker in Chicago, according to the petition.

Although Stella was born in Indonesia, the court documents say she is a U.S. citizen through acquisition because both her parents were U.S. citizens and resided here prior to traveling abroad on a tourist visa. Indonesian law says a child born there to non-Indonesian parents is not considered an Indonesian citizen, according to the court documents.

The grisly murder case has drawn interest across the globe, most recently last week when Mack appeared to be confessing to killing her mother alone, motivated by revenge, in videos posted on YouTube. She claimed in the videos that just before the murder, she'd learned that her mother had killed her father — acclaimed composer James L. Mack — while on vacation in Athens, Greece. A 2006 obituary cites a pulmonary embolism as his cause of death, and von Wiese-Mack's sister says Mack's claim is a lie.

Bali murder suspect Heather Mack delivers baby girl Christy Gutowski

A Chicago teen who may face a firing squad if convicted of killing her mother last summer in Bali gave birth early Tuesday to a girl.

Heather Mack delivered the 6-pound, 1-ounce girl during a cesarean operation about 5 a.m., Central Standard Time, according to her attorney Anthony Scifo.

"To my...

A Chicago teen who may face a firing squad if convicted of killing her mother last summer in Bali gave birth early Tuesday to a girl.

Heather Mack delivered the 6-pound, 1-ounce girl during a cesarean operation about 5 a.m., Central Standard Time, according to her attorney Anthony Scifo.

"To my...

(Christy Gutowski)

Then a statement released on Wednesday by Heather Mack and her lawyer in Bali said the claims in the videos were untrue and written by Schaefer; they were recorded under pressure and then posted online by another party who deliberately created a fake account using Mack's name, according to the statement.

The question of Stella's guardianship comes amid an ongoing legal dispute over Mack's $1.56 million trust in Chicago. Mack's maternal uncle, the trustee, has argued that Mack should not be permitted to profit financially from her crime under Illinois' slayer statute, which states that a person who unjustifiably causes the death of another person cannot receive property as a result of that death.

Stella would be next in line for the trust fund.

Schaefer, formerly of Oak Park, is serving an 18-year prison term. He had testified during his trial that von Wiese-Mack became angry when he came to her hotel room to tell her that Mack was pregnant; he said he struck her with a heavy metal fruit bowl handle after she threatened to harm the unborn baby and then began strangling him.

But emails obtained by the Tribune show that von Wiese-Mack was aware of her daughter's pregnancy prior to the trip.

Mack, who grew up in Oak Park but most recently lived in Chicago, is serving a 10-year prison sentence.

The couple supposedly broke up in 2016, according to posts on social media.

Chicago Tribune reporter Christy Gutowski contributed.

eleventis@chicagotribune.com

Twitter: @angie_leventis

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