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Mother, Boyfriend Charged in Homicide of Grace Packer, 14

January 8, 2017


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jennifer Schorn, 215.348.6337, jmschorn@buckscounty.org

Fourteen-year-old Grace Packer died at the hands of her own mother and her mother’s boyfriend, who conspired to beat, rape, poison and ultimately strangle the teen, Bucks County District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub said early today.

Sara Packer and Jacob Sullivan then preserved the girl’s corpse for weeks in cat litter before dismembering and dumping it in a remote area of north central Pennsylvania, Weintraub said at a 1 a.m. news conference in Newtown.

The teen had been reported missing last July in Montgomery County. Her remains were found by two hunters Oct. 31 in a wooded area near a reservoir in Bear Creek Township, Luzerne County.

“Unfortunately, Grace Packer was a disposable child to these people,” Weintraub said of the girl who was taken in as a foster child at age 3 – and later adopted – by the woman now charged with killing her.

“Who will now speak for Grace Packer? We will,” Weintraub said, casting the alleged crimes as a potential death penalty case.

Jacob Sullivan, 44, was arrested Saturday after stating to several workers at Abington Hospital-Jefferson Health that he was responsible for killing Grace. Under subsequent questioning by Bucks County detectives, he revealed in detail how the girl was assaulted and killed over the course of about 18 hours, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Sullivan was arraigned at 12:30 a.m. today before Magisterial District Judge Michael W. Petrucci of Newtown on charges of homicide, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, unlawful restraint, kidnapping, possessing instruments of crime, endangering the welfare of a child, abuse of corpse, simple assault, tampering with physical evidence, and corresponding conspiracy charges.

“I’m sorry for what I did,” he told reporters as he was led into the courthouse.

At Weintraub’s request, Petrucci denied bail for Sullivan and ordered him held at the Bucks County Correctional Facility pending a preliminary hearing Jan. 20 before Magisterial District Judge Robert C. Roth in Quakertown.

About three hours later, Sara Packer was arrested in Horsham Township on charges of homicide, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, possessing instruments of crime, endangering the welfare of a child, abuse of corpse, simple assault, tampering with physical evidence, and conspiracy to commit rape and each of the above crimes.

Packer was arraigned this afternoon before Petrucci, who denied her bail, ordered her held at the Bucks County Correctional Facility and set her preliminary hearing for the same time and location as Sullivan's. "We believe Sara Packer was complicit in her daughter's murder," Weintraub said afterward. 

Sullivan had been hospitalized since Dec. 30, when he was found unresponsive from a prescription drug overdose at his home in Horsham in an apparent suicide attempt. Sara Packer, 41, also was also found unresponsive the same day from a drug overdose, the result of a self-described “suicide pact” she had made with Sullivan, the affidavit said.

In an interview with investigators on Saturday, Sullivan described the girl’s slaying as something he and Sara Packer had been plotting since Grace returned from a stay with extended family in North Carolina in late 2015.

On the morning of July 8, 2016, Sullivan told detectives, he and Sara Packer drove Grace, still sleepy and in pajamas, from their residence in Abington to a new home in Richland Township, Bucks County.

After they entered the house, Sullivan said, he struck Grace several times in her face, splitting her lip. The two adults then took the teen to the third floor of the residence, where Sara Packer watched as Sullivan raped her daughter.

Sara Packer then left to buy Tylenol PM and other drugs for sedating Grace. Telling her the drugs would help minimize her pain from the assaults, the adults gave her an overdose of pills, then bound and gagged her and left her to die in the hot attic, Sullivan said.

Packer and Sullivan left the house for the rest of the day. Upon returning at 3 a.m. on July 9 and finding Grace still alive, Sullivan said, he strangled and suffocated her until she died. Packer and Sullivan then packed Grace’s body in cat litter to mask the odor and left it in the attic for three months.

Weintraub, saying that Grace suffered terribly before dying, called her killing “a rape-murder fantasy that was shared by Jacob Sullivan and Sara Packer, and they acted it out.”

Three days after the killing, police said, Sara Packer had filed a missing person report with Abington Township Police, saying that her daughter had disappeared and likely had run away.  

Packer then allegedly withheld critical information and gave misleading statements to investigators working to find Grace, resulting in Packer’s arrest in November on charges of endangering the welfare of a child and obstructing the administration of law. She is awaiting trial on those charges in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court.

Two weeks before Grace’s body was found with its arms and legs removed, Sara Packer was captured on video buying a bow saw and two extra blades at a tractor supply store in Richland Township, the probable cause affidavit says.

A forensic anthropologist who examined the saw and Grace Packer’s body determined that the scarring and tool marks on her bones were made by an alternating tooth saw blade similar to that of the bow saw.

Today’s charges came less than 20 days after Weintraub, Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie J. Salavantis and Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele announced Grace Packer’s death and issued a public appeal for information leading to the arrest of her killer or killers.

Weintraub lauded the efforts of investigators in all three counties, and said a number of helpful hints had come from the public. The case was investigated by Bucks, Montgomery and Luzerne county detectives, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Abington Township Police Department.

Authorities remain interested in speaking to anyone with additional information about Grace Packer’s disappearance and death. Any person having such information is urged to contact Bucks County detectives at 215-945-3100 or at buckscrimetips@buckscounty.org

Approved for release by Matthew Weintraub, District Attorney.

53 Comments

  1. 53 Stefanie Smilowitz 08 Jan
    should be killed
  2. 52 Al 08 Jan
    Blind this man and woman and deafen them as well and have them live out their existance lessening the boil of their evil minds.
  3. 51 joanne benoodt 09 Jan
    If ever the death penalty was called for, this is it.....unbelievable cruelty to a child.  If not the death penalty, take them outside and put a bullet in the back of their heads and get it over with.  
  4. 50 Wendy 09 Jan
    Who's responsible for taking that child from her natural parents, and putting her in the "care" of these monsters?
  5. 49 Patti 09 Jan
    This is a story that has made me physicaly ill. My only hope is that they will "get" what they deserve in PRISON!!
  6. 48 Tawni 11 Jan
    They should most de definitely be put to death. Was there ever any signs prior to her death that showed there being any danger for this poor child? She deserved better than what she was given and these two scumbags deserve to be tortured very slowly for days on end before being put to death. I pray they get the death penalty. 
  7. 47 frank butta 11 Jan
    To the District attorney,  I'am a contractor living in Nevada, This little girl's death has reached across the country. please use all your energy and wisdom to  see to it , that both these people get prosecuted so they never see the light of day again. god speed to you and your office
  8. 46 KaThy D 12 Jan
    That poor child! That is why I got an abortion when I was too young to take care of a child! My fear was that someone evil would adopt and hurt my child! My father and his brother were put in foster system back in the mid 1920's by their father.They were horribly abused but certainly not what this child had to face but still mistreated and put to work for farmers when they were around 3 and 5 years old.  They were also put in a hot attic and fed salty food by the wife. It left many scars on my Dad and Uncle. I know there are good people out there who want to adopt but how do you know? And why was this little girl adopted to just this women? Where was her husband? 

  9. 45 Diane Pietrzak 14 Jan
    are court proceedings open to the public
  10. 44 Heidi 06 Feb
    To the DA on this case...  I am from Grants Pass,  Oregon and have just read of this horrific crime committed against an innocent and beautiful little girl that had her whole life ahead of her.  Please see to it that these monsters are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for their heinous crimes.  Such a sad and tragic ending to a young lady's future. 
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