A Pennsylvania mother and her boyfriend acted out a “hate-fueled rape and murder fantasy” on her 14-year-old adopted daughter, authorities said Sunday. Sara Packer and her boyfriend Jacob Sullivan were charged in a conspiracy to murder young Grace Packer and dismember her body.
The charges stem from the hospital-bed confession Jacob Sullivan made on Saturday as he recovered from a failed suicide attempt with Packer a week earlier.
District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said while Sullivan’s confession cannot be used against Packer, investigators have put together a strong case alleging that she was complicit in the plot to kill the girl. The evidence includes Packer’s purchase “of sedatives allegedly used in an attempt to poison her daughter and the bow saw allegedly used to remove her limbs,” according to court documents. Also, authorities allege she “stored the body for three months packed in kitty litter in an attic closet one floor above her bedroom.”
Packer was arraigned in district court in Newtown, Bucks County, at noon Sunday on 17 charges including criminal homicide, rape conspiracy, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse.
Sullivan, 44, was charged and arraigned after midnight Sunday. He faces 19 charges including criminal homicide, rape, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse. He could face the death penalty, according to Larry King, a spokesman for the Bucks County District Attorney’s office.
District Judge Michael Petrucci denied bail for both Sullivan and Packer.
Charging documents say Sullivan told investigators the couple had planned to murder the girl for nearly a year before killing her in July.
“We never have to prove motive, but it’s certainly helpful,” Weintraub said. “This is one of the most shocking stunning motives I’ve ever heard of in my career as a prosecutor.”
Charging documents describe in gruesome detail Sullivan’s admission of the rape, killing and cover up. He told investigators he and Sara Packer drove Grace Packer in the wee hours of July 8 to a rented Richland Township home. There, Sullivan allegedly physically and sexually assaulted Grace Packer while her mother watched.
The couple then allegedly drugged Grace Packer and left her bound and gagged in a closet of the stiflingly hot attic, expecting her to die. When they returned hours later and found her still alive, Sullivan got down on the floor behind her and “slowly squeezed the life out of her,” charging documents say.
Sara Packer reported her daughter missing several days later. Sullivan told investigators they stored Grace Packer’s body in kitty litter in the attic until October, when, fearing police would discover it, they dismembered it in a bathtub and drove north on back roads to a Luzerne County reservoir where they dumped the body parts.
“It was a cold-blooded crime that was calculated and planned with deadly detail,” Weintraub said. “Unfortunately, she was just a disposable child to them.”
It’s hard to comprehend how a mother could contrive and then carry out such a depraved and demented rape/murder fantasy on her daughter, who was adopted as a toddler, but her background raises some profoundly disturbing red flags. According to The Morning Call, Packer was a caseworker with Northampton County Children and Youth Services, “working with children from troubled homes,” according to court records.
She was named in a 2007 lawsuit against the agency along with several other case workers which was later dismissed. Packer left the agency at some point after her husband David W. Packer was arrested on charges of child sex abuse. He pleaded guilty to indecent assault of someone under 13-years-old age in 2011.
More details on that case via The Morning Call’s archives: David Packer was arrested for the sexual assault of a nine-year-old in September of 2010, and the abuse had been going on since January of 2006, meaning the girl was only four or five when the assaults began.
The implications here require further examination by the authorities.
Timeline of the death of Grace Packer:
•July 4: Sara Packer’s father, Franklin Pielaet, tells police that Grace Packer attended a family picnic in Laurys Station.
•July 8: Jacob Sullivan and Sara Packer drive with Grace Packer from Abington Township, Montgomery County, to new home in Richland Township, Bucks County.
•July 11: Sara Packer files missing-persons report on Grace Packer with Abington Township police
•Sept. 7: Abington Township Detective Pettinato discovers Grace Packer’s brother is enrolled in Quakertown Community School District, but Grace is not.
•Oct. 11: Pettinato tells Sara Packer that he is going to enter Grace into a national database for missing and unidentified persons.
•Oct. 31: Grace Packer’s body is found in Bear Creek Township, Luzerne County.
•Nov. 11: Sara Packer charged with child endangerment and obstruction of the administration of law.
•Dec. 30: Sullivan and Sara Packer attempt suicide by overdose of pills. Both survive.
•Jan. 7: Sullivan admits to several hospital personnel his role in the murder of Grace Packer.
•Jan. 8: Sullivan is charged with homicide, rape, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse. Sara Packer is charged with homicide, rape conspiracy, kidnapping and abuse of corpse.