For two minutes, the amount of time it took Jacob Sullivan to kill Grace Packer, Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub stood in silence.
He stared at a tearful Sullivan as photos of Grace, the 14-year-old girl Sullivan choked to death in 2016, flashed across a screen in a Doylestown courtroom.
Weintraub then asked a jury to sentence Sullivan to death — to disregard the defense’s arguments that the 46-year-old’s fate should be the same as that of Sara Packer, who also participated in the kidnapping, rape, murder, and dismemberment of her daughter, and will be sentenced to life in prison.
“If this was about universal fairness,” Weintraub said, “Grace would be here.”
Sullivan’s defense attorneys disagreed, arguing that Packer manipulated her boyfriend in the same way she had done to others throughout her life.
“To say Sara Packer and her sentence shouldn’t be in your mind is ridiculous,” public defender Jack Fagan said. “She got life. He should be getting life.”
The impassioned closing arguments brought Sullivan’s seven-day sentencing hearing to an end, leaving his fate up to a Bucks County jury of six men and six women. Judge Diane E. Gibbons sent them to deliberate just before 4 p.m. Tuesday. They spent about three hours discussing the case before going home for the night. They are expected to resume deliberations at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
For Sullivan to be sent to death row, the jury’s decision must be unanimous. If even one juror doesn’t believe a death sentence is appropriate, Gibbons will sentence Sullivan to life in prison without parole.
The jury is not tasked with deciding Sullivan’s guilt or innocence. He pleaded guilty to the crimes last month, admitting how he and Packer tortured Grace during her final hours, killed her, then cut up and disposed of her remains.
Packer, 44, struck a deal with prosecutors. She is set to plead guilty on Wednesday and be sentenced to life in prison.
During his closing argument Tuesday, Weintraub argued that by Sullivan’s own admission, he dominated Packer, not the other way around. He asked jurors: Could anyone dominate them into committing these crimes?
“He personally and actually ended her life by strangling her,” Weintraub said of Grace. “He owns that, by himself.”
Jurors shouldn’t give Sullivan credit for confessing either, the prosecutor said, because he didn’t do it to accept responsibility.
“It’s a power trip. Sometimes people get a thrill from reliving this rape-murder fantasy," Weintraub said. “Sometimes people get a thrill from shocking others in letting them know what they’ve done to another human being."
Fagan, however, said Sullivan gave the prosecution its case by confessing.
“Would we be here if my client hadn’t confessed?" Fagan asked the jury. He said Sullivan, a former draftsman, had no criminal record before the killings and has maintained good behavior in prison.
Dressed in a black suit jacket, Sullivan sat stoically at the defense table, turning around to chat with relatives before the proceedings began.
A calm and emotionless Packer took the stand last week, publicly detailing for the first time how she and Sullivan attacked Grace, originally with the intention of keeping her tied up in a Richland Township attic for years for Sullivan to rape at will.
Sullivan’s public defenders, Fagan and Christina King, called Packer to testify in hopes of convincing the jury that she dominated Sullivan and manipulated him into committing the crimes. Without her influence, they argued, he never would have killed.
But Packer testified that Sullivan’s twisted sexual fantasy led them to murder.
“She didn’t have to die," Packer said. But she added, “I never told him not to do it.”
She described watching Grace be savagely beaten, raped, and choked by her boyfriend. At one point, Grace looked to her mother, and Packer said she told the girl: “I can’t help you anymore. This is now your life.”
Packer worked for adoption and foster agencies until 2010, when her foster rights were terminated for failing to report an earlier sexual assault of Grace and another child by her then-husband, David Packer. But Sara Packer was able to keep custody of her adopted children, Grace and her biological brother.
On the witness stand in a red prison jumpsuit, Packer said she groomed Sullivan to assault Grace the same way she had groomed her ex-husband.
By summer 2016, Packer said she wanted Grace “not to be a part of my life anymore." One July morning, after weeks of drugging Grace’s pudding to make her groggy, she said, she and Sullivan drove the sleeping teenager from a home they rented in Abington to another rental property near Quakertown. Inside, Sullivan punched Grace in the face and raped her, then he and Packer drugged her, bound her wrists and ankles with zip ties, shoved a pink ball gag in her mouth, and left her in a cedar closet in the home’s swelteringly hot attic.
When they returned early the next morning, they found Grace alive, having broken free of the zip ties and spit out the ball bag. Packer said Sullivan “panicked" and choked the girl to death as Packer watched.
They stored her body in cat litter inside a cardboard box until October, when Abington Township police arrived at the the home to investigate a missing person report Packer had filed and never followed up on. After officers left, Packer purchased a bow saw, and she and Sullivan cut up Grace’s remains in a second-floor bathroom.
The next day, they drove 75 miles to Luzerne County, Pa. Packer said she directed Sullivan to a wooded spot where they dumped Grace’s remains, which were found by father-and-son hunters, Guy and Cody Blakeslee, on Halloween.
As authorities focused in on the couple, they attempted suicide, but survived. In a hospital intensive-care unit, Sullivan confessed to hospital staff and later police. He and Packer were charged with the crimes in January 2017.