An arrest and allegations of a rape-murder fantasy in Abington teen's dismemberment

gracepacker_sarapacker_jacobsullivan1200
Sara Packer, left, Grace Packer, middle, Jacob Sullivan, right. Both Sullivan and Sara Packer have been charged in Grace Packer's gruesome death.

Update: The Bucks County District Attorney's Office announced Sunday morning that it was charging Sara Packer, the adoptive mother of 14-year-old Grace Packer, with homicide and related offenses in the death of her daughter.

This is a breaking news story that will be updated. Here is our earlier report. 

The missing 14-year-old Abington teen found dismembered in Luzerne County was killed by her adoptive mother and mother's boyfriend as part of a rape-murder fantasy the two shared, authorities alleged early Sunday morning.

Sullivan and Packer planned Grace's murder for more than a year, killed her in July, stored her body in the attic of their rented home in Quakertown for nearly four months and later cut it up, according to the affidavit of probable cause against Sullivan. But first, Sullivan raped Grace while her mother watched, the criminal complaint says.

"This was a sexual fantasy that was shared between Jacob Sullivan and Sara Packer, and Grace Packer was the object of that rape-murder fantasy," Bucks County District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub said.

In July, Packer reported her daughter missing from their Abington home. On Oct. 31, her remains were discovered by hunters near a dam in Bear Creek Township, Luzerne County, about two hours north of Philadelphia.

Packer had continued to collect Social Security payments for Grace after her death, authorities had previously alleged. "After they murdered her, they maintained the pretense of Grace being alive so that they could continue to profit off of her existence," Weintraub said.

Two weeks ago, days after prosecutors asked the public for help in solving the case, Sullivan and Packer made a suicide pact and attempted to overdose on prescription pills, according to the criminal complaint. Both were hospitalized after being found by a woman who lived with them.

While in Abington Memorial Hospital last week, Sullivan told workers that "he was responsible for the murder of Grace Packer" and Sara Packer was an accomplice, according to the criminal complaint.

Sullivan was arraigned by District Court Judge Michael W. Petrucci in Newtown on charges of homicide, rape, kidnapping and related offenses just after midnight Saturday. He was ordered held without bail and was expected to be transferred to Bucks County Prison.

According to the criminal complaint, Sullivan told investigators he and Packer had planned to kill Grace since fall 2015, when she returned from living with a relative in North Carolina.

On July 8, they allegedly put their plan into action. The criminal complaint alleges the following:

The morning of July 8, Sullivan and Packer drove from their rented Abington home to the Quakertown house they also rented. There, Sullivan raped Grace as Packer watched.

The pair then gave Grace pills, bound and gagged her, and left her to die in a cedar closet in the "extremely hot" attic of their Quakertown home. The pair went back to their Abington residence, but upon returning to Quakertown the next morning, found Grace still alive and conscious.

Using his arm around her neck, Sullivan suffocated Grace, he told police. He and Sara Packer left her body hidden in the attic, packed in cat litter, until mid-October, when police came to the Quakertown home to follow up on the investigation.

Then, Sullivan said, they used a saw Packer had purchased to cut up Grace in a bathtub. They put her remains in plastic totes and drove on back roads, pulling over to dispose of her body parts when they saw a clearing on the road in Luzerne County, the court filings allege.

Packer's story about Grace's disappearance and her cooperation with police in the investigation had been inconsistent. She was charged in November for impeding the investigation and jailed, but was released on bail on Dec. 23.

When Grace's body was found, it was free of insect infestation, leading investigators to believe she had been murdered elsewhere. Detectives found a receipt for a bow saw and two extra blades in the Quakertown home, according to the criminal complaint, which also says a surveillance video from a local hardware store shows Packer buying them.

Sullivan and Packer overdosed on Dec. 30 in the Horsham Township apartment of Katherine Allbright, according to the criminal complaint. At the time of Grace Packer's disappearance, Allbright had been living with the couple, who prosecutors said went back and forth between the Abington and Quakertown homes.

When Allbright called 911, the criminal complaint says, she told the dispatcher: "Um. . .there's. . .there's are a lot of reasons he would do this. . .we're. . .uh God. . .we're. . .I don't know if you have watched the news lately. . .our. . .someone we were involved with was recently. . .It's a big mess, It's a big mess and I don't really know how to explain it. . . but. . .oh my God."

A suicide note from Sullivan was found by detectives to his children, which said other people's lies had "made it impossible for us to live."

"I know you will always know that we had nothing to do with this no matter what lies they tell," he wrote. "I'm sorry to leave you. Remember all I've taught you. Be brave, stand tall and do your best to be stronger than I was."

The investigation is ongoing. Weintraub did not rule out the possibility of additional alleged accomplices.

"She never had a chance with these people," he said of Grace. "The question is, 'Who will speak for Grace Packer, this forgotten child?' and the answer is, 'We will.. . . We are not done."

 

jmcdaniel@philly.com

610-313-8205

@McDanielJustine