BUCKS COUNTY — A Montgomery County couple has been arrested and charged with homicide, rape, kidnapping and other crimes in connection with the death of Grace Packer, a 14-year-old girl whose dismembered body was found in Luzerne County this past fall.
Jacob Patrick Sullivan, 44, of Horsham, conspired with the girl’s adoptive mother, Sara Packer, 41, in the commission of some of the alleged crimes, Bucks County detectives allege in court papers.
Sullivan was arraigned early Sunday morning before Magisterial District Judge Michael W. Petrucci in Newtown, Bucks County.
Police allege in a criminal complaint that following a failed suicide attempt, Sullivan told hospital personnel he was responsible for the murder of Grace Packer, and that Sara Packer was his accomplice.
The slew of charges filed against Sullivan include homicide, kidnapping of a minor, rape, simple assault, abuse of corpse and tampering with evidence, as well as multiple conspiracy counts.
Charges nearly identical to Sullivan’s were filed Saturday against Sara Packer in Magisterial District Court, according to the online court docket.
Sara Packer was arrested early Sunday morning 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.
She was arraigned Sunday afternoon before Judge Petrucci.
Bucks County District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub said Packer “wanted to be rid of (Grace.)”
Sara Packer had been previously arrested Nov. 12 on charges she “withheld critical information and gave misleading statements to police after reporting her daughter missing,” and authorities had identified her as a person of interest in the case.
She had been charged with endangering the welfare of children and obstructing the administration of law and was being held at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in lieu of $10,000 bail. Sullivan posted her bail on Dec. 23, according to court records.
The investigation begins
According to the complaint filed against Sullivan:
Sara Packer filed a missing person’s report on her daughter with Abington Township police on July 11, telling them she last saw Grace three days earlier after they had a argument over Grace going to a friend’s house. She told police that the following day, she found her daughter was gone and had taken $300, that Grace had left home in the past for days at a time and that she has behavioral disorders.
Police unsuccessfully tried to contact Sara Packer numerous times over the next two months to follow up with the investigation and on Sept. 7 discovered that her house was vacant and she had withdrawn Grace and her younger brother from the Abington School District.
Police later that day learned that Sara Packer had enrolled her 12-year-old adopted son in the Quakertown School District, but they could find no record of enrollment or intent to enroll Grace for the fall semester. Police say Sara Packer contacted them later that day and apologized for failing to notify them of the move.
Police noted they later learned Sara Packer was a frequent user of Facebook and would sometimes post insignificant or minor incidents in her life, such as having a migraine headache. But Packer’s brother and a friend of Packer told police she never posted anything about Grace being missing.
On Oct. 11, police visited Sara Packer at her new residence in Quakertown for a follow-up interview and noted that Packer’s 12-year-old son was in the residence along with Sullivan and Katherine Albright, who was identified by the affidavit as another girlfriend of Sullivan’s.
On Oct. 31, troopers with Pennsylvania State Police in Wyoming responded to a report of hunters finding human remains along White Haven Road in Bear Creek Township, near the Francis E. Walter Reservoir. A pathologist determined that the arms and legs had been forcibly removed from the torso, and the cause of death was pending further investigation.
On Nov. 8, officials identified the remains found in Bear Creek Township as those of Grace Packer through dental records and a medical implant device. Investigators also learned that she had been killed and dismembered somewhere else and later dumped at the Luzerne County site.
During a search of Sara Packer’s Quakertown residence, police found an Oct. 16 receipt from a Tractor Supply store for the purchase of a bow saw and two extra blades, but the search did not turn up a saw or blades. Video surveillance from the store showed that Sara Packer made the purchase.
A forensic pathologist who examined Grace Packer’s remains told police her bones exhibited scarring and marks consistent with being cut by a bow saw.
On Dec. 30, Katherine Albright called 911 to report that she found Sullivan barely conscious and non-responsive in her bedroom, and that she believed he had taken an overdose of pills.
Albright later discovered Sara Packer unconscious in a bathroom and drove her to a hospital.
Notations on medical records indicate both Sullivan and Packer were admitted for attempted suicide by drug overdose and that Sullivan told hospital personnel that they had entered into a “suicide pact” before taking the prescription medications.
Police said hospital personnel to whom Sullivan allegedly confessed related specific details about the murder of Grace Packer that had not previously been released to the public.
The alleged confession
Sullivan later told investigators he and Sara Packer began planning the murder of Grace Packer shortly after the girl returned from residing with a family member in North Carolina, which was fall of 2015.
Sullivan told police he and Sara Packer drove Grace Packer to the new Quakertown residence on July 18, walked her inside and he struck her in the face several times. He allegedly told police he and Sara Packer took the girl to the attic and discussed his raping her before killing her. He then proceeded to rape the girl while Sara Packer watched.
Sullivan told police Sara Packer went out and bought medication used to sedate Grace Packer. They then bound and gagged her and left her to die in a cedar closet on the third floor. They then returned to the Abington Township residence.
Hours later, Sullivan told police, they returned to the Quakertown residence and found the girl was still alive. Then Sullivan got down on the floor behind her, wrapped his arm around her neck “and slowly squeezed the life out of her.”
Sullivan told police he and Packer concealed the body in the attic and packed it in cat litter to conceal the odor. It remained there until after an initial visit by police in October. Concerned police would discover the body, Sullivan said they moved it to the bathroom, dismembered it in the tub using the saw, placed it in plastic totes, put the totes in the trunk of Sullivan’s car and drove around looking for a site to dispose of the remains. They did so when they found a clearing on the side of a remote road.
They then disposed of evidence over the next several weeks, the complaint concludes.
At the request of Bucks County District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub, both Packer and Sullivan were denied bail and ordered held in the Bucks County Correctional Facility. They are both tentatively scheduled for a preliminary hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 20 before Magisterial District Judge Robert C. Roth, 281 California Road, Quakertown.
Weintraub lauded the support of law enforcement from both Bucks and Luzerne counties, as well as state police and F.B.I. for their collective efforts in the investigation.
He said efforts between law enforcement and the public “directly attributed” to the arrest of Sullivan and Sara Packer.
“Today, we will continue our relentless efforts to bring justice for Grace Packer,” Weintraub said.
Reach the Times Leader newsroom at 570-829-7242 or on Twitter @TLnews.comments powered by Disqus