Heather Mack’s daughter back in care of woman who raised her in Indonesia

Oshar Suartama confirmed for a judge Friday that she had arrived in Illinois and had reunited with 7-year-old Estelle Schaefer, known as Stella. The child’s therapist has told the judge “there’s no question” Stella sees that woman “as her mother and the primary caretaker in her life.”

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Heather Mack of Chicago, Ill. reacts inside a cell at Denpasar district court during her hearing objections trial in Bali, Indonesia, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. Mack and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer are accused of murdering Sheila von-Wiese Mack, her mother, who was found stuffed inside a suitcase. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)

Heather Mack in January 2015

Firdia Lisnawati/AP file

Heather Mack’s daughter is once again in the care of the woman who raised her in Indonesia while Mack served time there for the gruesome August 2014 murder of Mack’s mother.

The caretaker, Oshar Suartama, confirmed for Cook County Judge Stephanie Miller on Friday that she had arrived in Illinois and had reunited with 7-year-old Estelle Schaefer, known as Stella. The child’s therapist previously told the judge “there’s no question that Stella perceives [Suartama] as her mother and the primary caretaker in her life.”

Miller said last week she would temporarily place the girl with Suartama, but it became unclear whether Suartama could get to Chicago by Friday, as necessary.

Mack told the judge last week that she’d prefer her daughter go to Diana Roque Ellis of Beverly Hills. And Ellis’ attorney, Enrico Mirabelli, raised several questions during a hearing held by Zoom on Friday about where Suartama would be living, her finances and her access to transportation.

Stella’s court-appointed advocate, Theresa Ceko, told the judge that the lease on Suartama’s home in suburban Chicago doesn’t begin until July 10. Ceko said she knew where Suartama planned to stay in the meantime, but she did not want to disclose the location. Ceko confirmed for the judge that Suartama would be living in Illinois.

“I have every reason to believe that Stella, from right now, is going to be safe and in good hands,” Ceko said.

The judge did order attorney Vanessa Favia to deliver Stella’s passport to Ceko within two weeks. Favia has cared for Stella since the child arrived in the United States in November. Though the possibility of Stella returning to Indonesia has come up as custody of the child has been sorted out, the judge confirmed Friday that Suartama has “no authority to take the minor outside of the United States.”

Also seeking custody of Stella are her paternal grandmother, Kia Walker, and Mack’s cousin, Lisa Hellmann of Colorado.

Stella came here with her mother after Mack was released from prison in Indonesia and deported. An indictment was then unsealed in Chicago’s federal court alleging Mack and her onetime boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, plotted the overseas killing of Mack’s mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack.

Mack has been held in Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center ever since. Though Stella initially went to live with Favia, that arrangement has ended because of apparent medical issues within Favia’s family.

Von Wiese-Mack’s body was discovered inside a suitcase outside the St. Regis Bali Resort on Aug. 12, 2014. Mack and Schaefer were arrested the next day and prosecuted in Indonesia. Schaefer was sentenced to 18 years in prison for beating von Wiese-Mack to death, and Mack was sentenced to 10 years for helping.

Mack gave birth to Stella during the couple’s 2015 trial.

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