U.S. & World
Stories that affect your life across the U.S. and around the world.
Warning: The details of this story are extremely graphic and could be disturbing to some readers.
A Horsham, Pennsylvania man and his girlfriend are charged in the rape, murder and dismemberment of her teenage daughter.
Jacob Sullivan, 44, was arrested Saturday and accused of raping and killing Grace Packer, 14, of Abington Township. Police also said Grace’s adoptive mother and Sullivan's girlfriend, Sara Packer, 41, aided Sullivan in the crime; helped him dispose of the teen’s body; and then formed a suicide pact with him.
According to police, about three hours after Sullivan’s arrest, Packer was arrested in Horsham on charges of homicide, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, possessing instruments of crime, endangering the welfare of a child, abuse of a corpse, simple assault, tampering with physical evidence and conspiracy to commit rape.
Packer was arraigned at noon on Sunday.
"The question is how could any mother do this to a child. To their child," said Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub. "I don't have an answer. I'm bereft."
Investigators say Sullivan was involved in a polyamorous relationship with Sara Packer and another woman. On Dec. 30, 2016, Sullivan’s other girlfriend called 911 and told the dispatcher she had found him barely conscious and unresponsive inside their home in Horsham. She also believed he had overdosed on pills. The dispatcher then asked her if she knew why Sullivan would do that.
“I don’t know if you have watched the news lately,” the woman replied, according to the affidavit. “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.”
Medics arrived and Sullivan was taken to Abington Hospital where he was placed in critical condition and treated for a drug overdose. Police interviewed Sullivan’s girlfriend and also found a handwritten suicide note at the home. The note, which police say was written by Sullivan, said the following, according to the affidavit:
"I love you all so much. You are the only people that I have always been able to count on. I’m sorry that I am taking the coward’s way out, but I don’t have any strength left in me.
"People want to judge and lie and break me down. They have.
"I can’t exist with Sara in jail and those f------ lying pigs and the whore media have made it impossible for us to live.
"They don’t care how many lives or laws they break. I know you will always know that we had nothing to do with this no matter what lies they tell. 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.
"I love you.
Later that night, Sullivan’s girlfriend called 911 a second time. She told the dispatcher that after police and medics had left, she found Sara Packer unresponsive inside the bathroom of the home. The woman told officials she then drove her to Abington Hospital.
Police determined that both Sullivan and Packer had entered a suicide pact and tried to kill themselves by overdosing on drugs.
On Saturday staff members at Abington Memorial Hospital contacted investigators and told them that during the overnight hours, Sullivan admitted he was responsible for the murder of Sara Packer’s 14-year-old adopted daughter, Grace Packer. He also claimed that Sara Packer was his accomplice, according to the affidavit. The hospital staff also told investigators they believed Sullivan admitted he had killed Grace to his family members when they visited him in the hospital.
During an interview with investigators, Sullivan then admitted he and Packer had plotted Grace’s murder, according to officials. Sullivan allegedly claimed they began planning the murder in the fall of 2015 after Grace returned from living with a family member in North Carolina.
During the early morning hours of July 8, 2016, Sullivan and Sara Packer drove Grace from her Abington Township home to their new home on Cherry Road in Quakertown, Bucks County, officials said. When they arrived, Sullivan and Packer walked Grace into the house, according to the affidavit. Sullivan then allegedly struck Grace in the face several times. The duo then took Grace into the attic of the home where Sullivan raped the teen girl while Packer watched, investigators said. During his interview with officials, Sullivan also allegedly admitted to sexually assaulting Grace on two occasions prior to that incident.
Packer then left and obtained several pills, according to the affidavit. The duo then gave Grace the pills, telling her it would help her deal with the pain, tied her up, gagged her and then left her to die in the extremely hot attic, investigators said. Sullivan and Packer then went back to their Abington home and later returned to the Quakertown home around 3 a.m. the next day, expecting to find Grace dead, officials said. The teen was still conscious and alive however, according to the affidavit.
Sullivan then allegedly wrapped his arm around Grace’s neck and face and strangled her to death. Sullivan and Sara Packer then packed her body in kitty litter, investigators said. The duo allegedly left the girl’s body concealed in the attic where she would remain for more than three months.
"Poor Grace was stored in a cedar closet while covered with moth balls and kitty litter I believe so that she would not rot and stink," said Weintraub.
On July 11, Sara Packer went to the Abington Township Police Department and reported Grace was missing. She allegedly lied to police and told them prior to her daughter's disappearance, she sent Grace to her room following an argument over the teen asking to visit one of her friends. Police noted that Sara Packer couldn’t provide an address or name of the friend however, according to the affidavit.
Packer also allegedly told police Grace took $300 in cash from the home and that she had left the house in the past.
Police then made several attempts to reach Packer as they searched for Grace over the next two months. But she allegedly ignored them and was uncooperative with the investigation. Police then visited Packer’s Abington Township home on September 7 but discovered she had moved without notifying them, according to the affidavit.
Police then learned Packer had enrolled her 12-year-old adopted son, who is also Grace’s biological brother, into the Quakertown School District without notifying them, according to the affidavit. Police then received a phone message from Packer apologizing to them for not notifying them of the move, investigators said. She also allegedly told them she had notified all of Grace’s relatives that she went missing. But investigators later determined she had not told her relatives about Grace's disappearance at that time.
While the search for Grace carried on, police said Sara continued to collect a $712 a month Social Security check in the girl's name -- failing to notify the agency that she was missing. Since the girl's disappearance, the mother spent $3,616.03 of the funds, court documents state.
Police then investigated the Quakertown home where Grace's body was being concealed in mid-October, according to the affidavit. Sullivan then allegedly became concerned investigators would find the girl’s remains. Sullivan and Packer then moved Grace’s body from the attic to the second floor bathroom of the house and used a saw to dismember her limbs, according to the affidavit.
The duo then allegedly stored her remains in plastic totes and put them inside the trunk of Sullivan’s vehicle. They then drove to a wooded area near SR 2041, White Haven Road in Bear Creek Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania where they left Grace's remains. On October 31, around 5:30 p.m., hunters in the woods found the remains and called police.
During their investigation of Grace’s murder, officials found the receipt of the Bucks County tractor supply store where Packer had bought the saw used to dismember her daughter’s body, according to the affidavit. Investigators say they obtained surveillance video from the store of Packer buying the saw. Investigators also say they obtained a copy of Packer’s debit card purchases which revealed she had bought the pills she used to drug Grace from a Target store in Bucks County.
Following his arrest Saturday, Sullivan was charged with murder, rape, kidnapping, abuse of corpse, simple assault and other related offenses. He was arraigned at 12:30 a.m. Sunday in Newtown, Bucks County.
"I'm sorry for what I did to the girl," Sullivan said as he was led to the courthouse in handcuffs early Sunday morning.
Sara Packer said nothing as she walked into the same courthouse hours later.
Before police determined she was involved in the plot to kill her adopted daughter, Packer had already been arrested in November and charged with child endangerment and obstruction of justice for allegedly not cooperating with the investigation. Both her and Sullivan are being held without bail and are scheduled for a preliminary hearing on January 20.
"Unfortunately Grace Packer was a disposable child to these people," Weintraub said. "She actually would have been better off had she been a forgotten child. And the question becomes, who will remember Grace Packer? Who will now speak for Grace Packer? We will."
A memorial service for Grace Packer is scheduled to take place on Monday, January 16 at 3:30 p.m. at the North Penn VFW on 2519 Jenkintown Road in Glenside, Pennsylvania.
NBC10 is reaching out to Packer and Sullivan's lawyers for comment.
SUICIDE PREVENTION HELP: The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.