Heather Mack, who was convicted abroad of helping to kill her mother and cramming her body into a suitcase in Bali, is seeking bail and custody of her daughter as she awaits retrial in the US.
Mack, 26, appeared in Illinois state court Monday for proceedings to determine custody arrangements for her daughter, seven-year-old Estelle Schaefer, whose name is Stella.
“I’ve never been violent,” Mack testified before Cook County Judge Stephanie Miller, according to the Chicago Sun Times. “I was a loving, caring mother.”
While Mack is being held without bail, Stella is currently being cared for by Mack’s maternal cousin, Lisa Hellmann of Colorado, who is the niece of Mack’s murdered mother, socialite Sheila von Wiese-Mack.
But Mack is trying to transfer the girl into the custody of her California friend Diana Roque Ellis — and hopes to live with Ellis and Stella when she is released on bail.
In a separate motion filed last week in U.S. District Court, Mack’s attorney requested that she be released on bail pending federal trial, arguing that she poses no danger to others and poses no flight risk.
“Aside from the lengthy conflict Ms. Mack had with her mother prior to her mother’s death, Ms. Mack had absolutely no record of any danger to anyone,” Mack’s attorney Michael I. Leonard argued in the motion.
Heather Mack (seen 2015), who was convicted abroad of helping to kill her mother and cramming her body into a suitcase in Bali, seeks bail and custody of her daughter
Mack and her ex-boyfriend were convicted of conspiracy to murder Sheila von Wiese-Mack (with her left hand) at a luxury resort in Bali and then cram her body into a suitcase (right)
“She has no criminal history other than the foreign conviction arising from the same issues raised in this case,” the motion added.
Court records do not yet show a ruling on Judge Matthew Kennelly’s bail request.
Mack served seven years in an Indonesian prison after she and her ex-boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, were convicted of conspiracy to murder von Wiese-Mack at a luxury resort in Bali and then placed her body in a suitcase which they left in the trunk from a taxi.
The pair allegedly plotted to kill von Wiese-Mack in order to gain access to a $1.5 million trust fund set up in her name by Mack’s late father, famed Chicago jazz composer James L. Mack.
Schaefer, the father of young Stella, is still in prison in Indonesia. Mack gave birth to the girl during the couple’s 2015 trial in Indonesia.
Earlier this month, Mack was deported to the US after serving her sentence abroad.
Mack is seen in an immigration car after being released from Kerobokan Prison in Bali, Indonesia on Oct. 29. She was released 34 months early for good behavior
She was arrested shortly after landing in the US last Wednesday morning after a 13-hour flight (pictured at the airport in Indonesian). Mack was accompanied by the six-year-old prison-born daughter
Moments after she stepped off the plane at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, she was arrested by federal agents armed with charges against her and Schaefer for conspiracy to commit murder abroad and obstruction of justice.
The maximum sentence on the murder conspiracy charge is life and the obstruction charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
During Monday’s custody battle for Stella, Mack hit back at allegations that her friend Diana Roque Ellis was using the girl as a pawn to seek fame and fortune.
“I don’t believe Diana would exploit Stella for money,” she testified, according to the Sun-Times.
Mack acknowledged that years ago she and Ellis had talked about “telling my side of the story” through a TV production company, but said, “I’m no longer involved in a contract, and neither is Diana.”
Mack gave birth to daughter Stella during the couple’s 2015 trial in Indonesia
Mack’s cousin Hellman, whose mother is the sister of the late von Wiese-Mack, is trying to keep custody of the girl, who was born in an Indonesian prison and lived there with a janitor while Mack was behind bars.
Stella returned to the US with the caretaker earlier this year to await Mack’s release, but the caretaker, Oshar Suartama, was recently forced to return to Indonesia.
“She thinks of it as a vacation,” Mack said of her daughter. “She transitioned very well. She likes having all those cousins she didn’t even know she had.”
In court, Mack testified that she recently made a virtual visit to Stella, acknowledging that Hellman was “nice” during the video chat.
However, she disputed Hellman’s previous testimony that Mack has a “tendency toward violence.”
Mack replied, “Lisa has no idea what kind of mother I was to Stella.”