Heather Mack Considers Placing Baby Stella With New Family

Heather Mack and her baby are currently living with eight other women in a cell in the Kerobokan Prison

The Chicago woman serving time in Indonesia in connection with the brutal death of her mother may be considering another caregiver for her 3-month-old child.

Heather Mack, in a statement given by her attorney to NBC5 Investigates reporter Chris Coffey, said she needs to "make sure Stella's physical, emotional, and mental needs are the planned for."

"I walk, sleep, think, and dream Stella," Mack wrote. "It's not so much as I am worried about me, as painful as it is, I want Stella to have a healthy environment, where she sees me daily."

A Tuesday report in the DailyMail.com claimed Heather Mack is in negotiations to place baby Stella into the care of an Australian family living in Bali. The report said Mack could place the girl into the care of the other family within four months' time.

Mack, however, told NBC Chicago "nothing is set in stone" and she is still waiting to get clarification of her conviction and sentence.

"Transition will take time, which I will need to start early, and if the decision to allow her to be taken care of by a good-hearted and respected family, here in Indonesia, she will have the best of both worlds by her seeing my love and consistent presence in her life while getting what she needs close to where I am," Mack wrote. "I will never leave her, even if she is not laying next to me physically."

Throughout her trial, Mack was quoted as saying she would raise her daughter for two years, the maximum time allowed by Indonesian prison authorities.

Mack and her baby are currently living with eight other women in a cell in the Kerobokan Prison. 

Experts on the topic of incarcerated mothers said if Mack chooses to give up Stella to a caregiver now, it could benefit the baby girl.

"The idea of having Heather, herself, assume the maternal role for two years and then suddenly transfer the baby to other caregivers would presumably be traumatic to the child,” said James Dwyer, a professor specializing in family law at William & Mary School of Law.

Developmental psychologist Dee Ann Newell, who founded the Arkansas Voices for the Children Left Behind, said if an incarcerated mother has any chance of maintaining a relationship with her child, it must be with a caregiver or family member who is willing and committed who lives nearby.

“It is healthy and it is probably the ultimate way to protect babies and mothers is to maintain a connection,” Newell said.

Mack was convicted in Indonesia in April for her role in the murder of her mother, Sheila von Wiese Mack, whose body was found beaten and stuffed in a suitcase outside a posh Bali resort last August. Mack was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, was also found guilty and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

A Cook County judge earlier this month urged all parties involved in a legal battle over Mack’s contested trust fund to wrap things up soon for the sake of the baby. Judge Neil Cohen said he did not want lawyers "eating up" the money for the child. 

Sheila von Wiese Mack left behind a trust fund totaling more than $2 million, but the money became the focus of a legal battle in Cook County Court around the same time Mack was given permission to access the fund to pay for legal fees. Lawyers representing von Wiese Mack’s brother, William Wiese, raised objections. A special interim trustee was named to oversee the funds earlier this year.

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