BUCKS COUNTY, PA. — 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 is scheduled to be arraigned at noon today before Judge Petrucci.
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.