DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (WJW) -- The mother of a girl who was raped, murdered and dismembered testified Wednesday that she helped plot the attack and carry it out, telling the teen, “I can't help you anymore. This is your life now.”
Sara Packer took the witness stand at the sentencing hearing for her boyfriend, Jacob Sullivan, who pleaded guilty in the 2016 rape, murder and dismemberment of 14-year-old Grace Packer and faces a potential death sentence. She has agreed to plead guilty to first-degree murder and other offenses in exchange for a life sentence.
“Grace had become, for lack of a better word, a non-entity. She just didn't exist anymore. I wanted her to go away,” Packer said calmly, in a monotone. She appeared to smirk at times.
Her daughter had become a discipline problem — a “very difficult child” — and she wanted her dead, she said.
Sara Packer admitted she hated Grace, shared a rape-murder fantasy with Sullivan, watched as he sexually assaulted and strangled her in a hot attic outside Philadelphia, and helped hack up her body and dispose of it months later.
Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub told the jury that he agreed to a life sentence for Sara Packer in exchange for her confession and guilty plea because the physical evidence against her was weak, because it was Sullivan who raped and killed Grace, and because her crimes did not qualify for the death penalty.
Packer testified that she and Sullivan tried to kill Grace with an overdose of over-the-counter medicine, thinking the pills and the heat of the attic would kill her. She also admitted helping bind her daughter with zip ties and stuffing a ball gag in her mouth.
The couple left her to die.
Grace eventually managed to escape some of her bindings and spit the gag out. But she was unable to make it out of the vacant house before Sullivan and Packer returned overnight — some 12 hours later — and Sullivan strangled her as Sara Packer looked on.
Packer and Sullivan stored Grace's body in cat litter for months, then hacked it up and dumped it in a remote area where hunters found it in October 2016.
Sara Packer and her husband at the time, David Packer, adopted Grace and Josh in 2007. The couple cared for dozens of foster children before David Packer was sent to prison for sexually assaulting Grace and a 15-year-old foster daughter at their Allentown home, about an hour outside Philadelphia.
Sara Packer lost her job as a Northampton County adoptions supervisor in 2010 and was barred from taking in any more foster children. But child welfare authorities did not remove Grace from the home, despite evidence of abuse.
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services launched an investigation after Grace's murder but its findings have not been made public.