What to Know
- Jacob Sullivan has admitted to killing Grace Packer in 2016 as part of a rape-murder fantasy.
- Sullivan, 46, still faces the death penalty when he is sentenced. Jury selection for the penalty phase began Friday.
- Grace Packer's adoptive mother, Sara Packer, plans to plead guilty. Her lawyer says she will also testify against Sullivan at sentencing.
Warning: The details of this story are extremely graphic and could be disturbing to some readers.
After days of delays, a Pennsylvania man's guilty plea in the rape, murder and dismemberment of a 14-year-old girl has been formally accepted.
Jacob Sullivan will now face a jury outside Philadelphia to determine a sentence of either life in prison or death for raping and killing Grace Packer. Jury selection began Friday afternoon.
Sullivan, 46, first pleaded guilty to all charges in the 2016 death in a Bucks County courtroom on Tuesday. But, the plea couldn't formally be accepted due to Sullivan suffering from high blood pressure. When court resumed Thursday, Sullivan complained of a headache. Medical personnel rushed him to the hospital both times.
Grace’s adoptive mother, Sara Packer, 44, is expected to testify against Sullivan during the penalty phase of his trial. Packer has agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, according to her attorney, Keith Williams.
Sullivan was Sara’s boyfriend.
Prosecutors have said that Sara Packer, a former foster parent and county adoptions supervisor, watched Sullivan act out a rape-murder fantasy they shared. Sullivan said he conspired in the crime with Sara Packer.
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Grace’s death raised questions about whether child welfare agencies could have done more to protect her. Packer and her husband at the time, David Packer, cared for dozens of foster children before David was arrested in 2010 and sent to prison for sexually assaulting Grace and a 15-year-old foster daughter at their home in Allentown, about an hour north of Philadelphia. She lost her job as a Northampton County adoptions supervisor in 2010 and was barred from taking in any more foster children.
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services launched an investigation after Grace Packer’s murder but its findings have not been made public.
In court Friday, it was revealed that on the day of the rape, Sullivan and Packer woke Grace up early and took her to the Quakertown home, telling Grace it was because the police were after her.
Sullivan beat and raped Grace, and she was bound, gagged and left to die in a sweltering attic, authorities have said. Returning the next day and finding Grace was still alive, Sullivan strangled her, court documents said. The couple stored Grace's body in cat litter for months, then dismembered the body and dumped the remains in a remote area where hunters found it in October 2016, police have said.
Sullivan's credit card was used to buy zip ties and kitty litter, investigators said.
Sullivan, whose attorney had said Sarah Packer masterminded the plot, entered his initial plea as jury selection was about to get underway Tuesday. Packer’s trial was expected to begin next month.