For the first time in her short life, Stella Schaefer has left the Bali prison she spent the last two years growing up in with her mother Heather Mack.
The young child has been at the center of a custody battle involving her paternal grandmother, Kia Walker, who sought to bring the girl back to Chicago. But Stella has instead been released to a couple in Bali, near the prison where her mother will continue to serve her 10-year sentence.
Stella was born shortly before her parents were convicted in the 2015 killing of Mack’s mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack, who was beaten to death and stuffed in a suitcase.
Mack’s boyfriend and Stella’s father, Tommy Schaefer, was sentenced to 18 years in the case.
Mack has been raising her daughter in Kerobokan jail since her birth in 2015, but local law only allowed the child to remain in the prison until the age of 2, a birthday she celebrated Friday.
Mack told the DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview that releasing custody of her daughter is “tearing me apart.”
“’It’s very hard for me but I’m so grateful to the prison for letting her spend the past two years with me here,” the 21-year-old told the publication.
According to the DailyMail.com, a birthday celebration was held for Stella at the prison before her release. There, inmates had reportedly grown fond of the child, saying she is “a little girl with 148 mothers.”
Peter Schmiedel, the Cook County court-appointed guardian ad litem for Stella, said her new foster mother has been involved with Stella since her birth and she is someone the child is familiar with.
“This is going to be a difficult transition, but we’re hopeful that it’s going to allow Stella to live as normal a life as she possible can for a beautiful-looking little 2-year-old girl,” Schmiedel said.
He added that Mack’s parental rights have not been terminated and that Mack herself made the agreement to transfer the child.
“We’re hoping this works out so that she can lead as normal a life as possible,” he said.
Mack’s uncle, William Wiese, is currently involved in a legal battle with Mack over her inheritance. However, he said the family is “very pleased that Stella has finally been released from prison and will have a chance at having a normal life.”
Wiese, as trustee, is allowing for money from a contested trust fund to be used to help pay for food, clothing and medical supplies for Stella. Wiese also provided the funds that were used to buy birthday presents for Stella.
“I stand ready to fully support Stella as she embarks on a difficult path ahead. I also hope that everyone continues to remember the true victims of this horrific murder, Sheila, whose life was senselessly cut short, and Stella, an innocent baby brought into this world in very difficult circumstances,” William Wiese said in a statement.
When Stella arrived at her new home Friday, she was greeted with a large pile of toys, stuffed animals and clothes.
Walker filed an appeal this week in another attempt to gain guardianship of her granddaughter.
Stella Schaefer arrived to her new home in #Bali and found these presents for her 2nd birthday. @nbcchicagopic.twitter.com/w6DgZK5oxl
— Chris Coffey (@ChrisCoffeyNBC) March 17, 2017
Published at 1:05 PM CDT on Mar 17, 2017 | Updated at 9:36 PM CDT on Mar 17, 2017