A Cook County judge on Tuesday denied custody of Heather Mack’s child to the baby’s paternal grandmother.
Judge Susan Kennedy Sullivan ruled that without the consent of both parents, the court can’t grant guardianship of Estelle “Stella” Schaefer to her grandmother, Kia Walker, because it doesn’t have jurisdiction over a child born and raised behind bars in Indonesia, said Michael Goldberg, Walker’s attorney.
Indonesian law allows Stella to stay with her mother until her second birthday on Friday, as Mack serves a 10-year sentence for her role in the murder of her mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack. Stella’s father, Tommy Schaefer, is serving an 18-year sentence for bludgeoning von Wiese-Mack to death, then stuffing her body in a suitcase at a luxury hotel in Bali in 2014.
Tommy Schaefer wants Stella to be raised by his mother, Kia Walker, in west suburban Forest Park, according to the petition for guardianship filed last month by Walker. Heather Mack wants the girl to stay in Indonesia so she can see her as she completes her sentence.
After the judge’s denial on Tuesday, Walker filed an expedited appeal with the Illinois Appellate Court, but a decision won’t be reached by Stella’s birthday on Friday, Goldberg said.
“The child is an American citizen, born to American parents in Indonesia as tourists,” Goldberg said. “[Walker] feels that the child belongs in the United States with her and not in foster care. And she wishes the judge would’ve taken jurisdiction.”
It was unclear where Stella would end up. Mack’s lawyer said last month that a Bali family was willing to take care of the girl for the remainder of her mother’s sentence. The child was registered with the U.S. consulate in Indonesia when she was born, before her parents were convicted, and she has an American passport.