A Doylestown man admitted Tuesday that he kidnapped, raped, killed, and dismembered his girlfriend’s 14-year-old daughter, Grace Packer, in 2016. His girlfriend also is expected to plead guilty.
Jacob Sullivan, 46, and Sara Packer, 44, were charged in 2017 with killing the Abington girl as part of what authorities have described as a “heinous” and “unspeakable” sexual fantasy. They said the couple raped the teen, choked her to death, and left her body in kitty litter for months, then cut up her remains and dumped them in the woods of Luzerne County.
If a judge accepts Sullivan’s plea, a jury will be selected to determine whether he is sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.
Judge Diane E. Gibbons was set to make a decision Tuesday afternoon, but after complaining of a headache and telling authorities he wasn’t given his daily blood-pressure medicine, Sullivan was taken to Doylestown Hospital. Gibbons now could decide as early as Wednesday.
Packer is expected to plead guilty at a later date in exchange for a life sentence.
Sullivan’s public defenders, Christina King and Jack Fagan, said they may call Packer to testify during the penalty phase of his case, which is expected to begin next month.
Without handcuffs and in a white collared shirt, Sullivan answered Gibbons’ questions confidently. As prosecutors read the details of his crimes, he appeared stoic and at times glassy-eyed.
Two of Packer’s relatives sat in the front row of the courtroom. One left sobbing as she listened to what Sullivan had done to the girl.
In July 2016, at a home the couple rented near Quakertown, Sullivan said, he took Viagra and raped the teen as Packer watched. Then he said he and Packer drugged, bound, and gagged her, and left her to die in a hot attic closet.
But when they came back the next day, she was still alive. So, Sullivan said, he suffocated her before he and Packer placed her body in kitty litter. Packer reported the girl missing that week, then failed for months to return police phone calls, provide recent photographs of her daughter, or even tell authorities that she’d moved to Quakertown.
After police ramped up their search that September, Sullivan and Packer returned to the attic, cut up the girl’s remains in a bathtub, and dumped them in the woods, where they were found by hunters on Halloween 2016.
Before Christmas, authorities announced that the girl’s remains had been found and that her adoptive mother was a person of interest.
The couple attempted to overdose together, but were found by a roommate and survived. After Sullivan told hospital staff, “I killed her ... Gracie was a nightmare," he and Packer were charged with murder.
Sullivan had last appeared in court in January for a hearing at which Gibbons rejected a defense request to delay a trial until a higher court’s ruling on the death penalty. This week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied a defense request for a stay in the case.
As of Feb. 1, 142 people were on death row in Pennsylvania. The state hasn’t executed someone since Gary Heidnik, who tortured and killed women in his Philadelphia “House of Horrors," was killed by lethal injection in 1999.