Woman who raised Heather Mack’s child in Indonesia could care for her here — if she makes it in time

It wasn’t clear Friday whether Oshar Suartama could get to Chicago before Stella’s current caretaker, Vanessa Favia, has to relinquish custody. If she can’t, the child could wind up with Diana Roque Ellis of Beverly Hills, a friend of Mack’s murdered mother.

SHARE Woman who raised Heather Mack’s child in Indonesia could care for her here — if she makes it in time
merlin_102087315.jpg

Heather Mack, 19, of the United States holds her baby daughter in jail after her verdict hearing on April 21, 2015 in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia.

Agung Parameswara, Getty Images

The woman who spent years caring for Heather Mack’s daughter in Indonesia could wind up caring for her again in suburban Chicago — if she can get to the United States in time.

Cook County Judge Stephanie Miller tried Friday to resolve recent uncertainty over custody of 7-year-old Estelle Schaefer, known as Stella. The judge said she would temporarily place the girl with Oshar Suartama, who said she could come live with Stella in the United States for now.

But things got messy again when the judge turned to logistics. That’s because it wasn’t clear whether Suartama could make it to Chicago before Stella’s current caretaker, Vanessa Favia, has to relinquish custody. If she can’t, the child could wind up with Diana Roque Ellis of Beverly Hills, a friend of Mack’s murdered mother.

And that’s exactly where Mack said during a virtual hearing Friday she wants her daughter to go. Mack spoke directly to the judge from Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, where she is locked up for allegedly plotting the overseas killing of her mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack.

“[Stella] views Diana as part of our family, and she’s very happy and excited,” Mack said.

She said she would feel the same even if Suartama, who raised Stella while Mack was locked up overseas, could come to the United States.

Stella’s fate has been unclear ever since she and Mack arrived in the United States last November. Mack had been deported from Indonesia and was arrested at O’Hare Airport for her alleged role in her mother’s death. She has been held in the MCC ever since.

Meanwhile, Stella has been living with Favia, a former attorney of Mack’s. But Favia’s attorney told the judge during an earlier hearing Monday that Favia had chosen to withdraw as Stella’s custodian because of medical issues within Favia’s family.

Favia’s attorney said Friday she could care for Stella until June 24. Suartama initially said she couldn’t be on a plane to the United States until July 3. When asked if she could get here sooner, Suartama told the judge she’d have to get back to her.

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

The judge repeatedly said her ruling Friday was based on Stella’s best interest, including insight from the child’s therapist and her court-appointed advocate.

The therapist, Gail Grossman, said Stella has “consistently and repeatedly” identified Suartama as the “primary person in her life” who “she considers her mother who’s taken care of her since she was a baby.”

The judge told the group she “does not believe that it’s in the minor’s best interest to go to Ms. Ellis.”

However, she also made clear that Stella “is not going to be allowed to travel with anyone outside of the United States.” In Monday’s hearing, it had been suggested that Stella could spend the summer in Bali with Suartama.

The dispute stems from the gruesome discovery of von Wiese-Mack’s body inside a suitcase outside the St. Regis Bali Resort on Aug. 12, 2014. Mack and her then-boyfriend, Tommy 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.

Mack was then released from an Indonesian prison in October and deported to the United States along with Stella. Schaefer remains behind bars overseas.

Walker took a verbal shot at Mack during Friday’s hearing, asking the judge whether Stella could speak to Schaefer over Father’s Day weekend. Walker then referenced the murder of Stella’s other grandmother.

“We’re not doing that,” Miller said, cutting Walker off. The judge then added, “Everybody’s aware of this situation.”

Mack followed up a short time later, telling the judge that Stella views Suartama’s mother as her grandmother.

“She does not view Tommy Schaefer as her father,” Mack said. “I just wanted to state that for the record.”

The Latest
Less than a year after the Stonewall Riots on June 28, 1969, the group Gay Liberation won recognition as a campus organization at the University of Chicago.
The second volume of “Mercury” is upbeat, often Caribbean-spiced and throbbing. It’s the sound of a band getting its arena groove back.
The Republican candidate for governor praises Trump, disses teachers, and serves up immorality wrapped in faith.
Director Bartlett Sher’s staging turns away from the rom-com aesthetic that defined both the 1956 Broadway debut and the 1964 movie.
Sarah Jackson Abedelal, the onetime principal of Brennemann Elementary School, is one of six people charged so far with scamming CPS through phony overtime claims and bogus orders for ink, paper and other printer supplies.