CHICAGO --Heather Mack, an American convicted in her mother's "suitcase murder" in Indonesia, gave custody of her young daughter on Friday to an Australian woman until her release from prison.
Mack is serving a 10-year sentence for assisting her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer in Sheila von Wiese-Mack's murder, in which the body was stuffed in a suitcase. Schaefer was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
The baby girl, Stella Schaefer, was born shortly before her parents were convicted in 2015. Under Indonesian law, she was allowed to live with her mother in her cell in Kerobokan prison until she turned 2 years old on Friday.
Prison chief Tony Nainggolan said the girl's development will be supervised by government social workers.
"We will allow the girl to meet her mother any time," Nainggolan said.
Mack, 21, broke down in tears as she gave Stella to Oshar Putu Melody Suartama, an Australian woman married to a Balinese man, said Mack's Indonesian lawyer, Yulius Benyamin Seran.
He said Suartama, who has two sons and lives in Bali, befriended Mack when the couple was first detained for murder. She helped Mack as an interpreter and supported her during the trial. Mack and Schaefer have not terminated their parental rights, according to Peter Schmiedel, a court appointed guardian Ad litem. The Balinese couple will act as foster parents.
"She is the right person to raise Stella, she loves her," Seran said. "Yes, there was a lot of crying. Also, Tommy was there at the last minute, before we went out. Tommy was also there and they (were both) crying, the mother and Tommy," said Yulius Benyamin Seran, Mack's lawyer. "Stella, she is happy. We don't know (inside) the heart, but it seems she is happy."
The handover comes after a Cook County judge denied putting Stella in the custody of Schaefer's mother, Kia Walker.
"We are very disappointed the Indonesian government allowed this child to go with a non-relative without giving any formal notice to the family, the child is an American citizen with an American passport she has the rights of an American Citizen," said Michael Goldberg, Kia Walker's attorney.
Von Wiese-Mack's badly battered body was found stuffed in a suitcase inside the trunk of a taxi at the St. Regis Bali resort. She reportedly did not approve of her daughter's relationship with Schaefer.
WLS-TV contributed to this report.