Sara Packer testimony: How a foster mother and her boyfriend acted out on a rape murder fantasy of an adopted child.
The Pennsylvania foster mother of a girl who was raped, murdered and dismembered has admitted helping plot her adoptive daughter’s attack and carry it out, telling the teen before her death that ‘I can’t help you anymore.’
Appearing in court, Sara Packer, 44, on Wednesday recounted how she watched her boyfriend sexually assault 14-year-old Grace Packer, then strangle her in a hot attic outside Philadelphia. She said Grace looked at her as she was being choked to death, with the mother taking her hand and telling her it was ‘OK to go.’
‘Grace had become, for lack of a better word, a non-entity,’ Packer testified. ‘She just didn’t exist anymore. I wanted her to go away.’
The foster mom’s testimony came at a sentencing hearing for Jacob Sullivan, who pleaded guilty last month to rape, first-degree murder and other offenses in Grace’s 2016 death. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Sullivan. The defense is seeking life in prison.
Sara Packer who worked for foster care and adoption agencies, had agreed to plead guilty to first-degree murder in exchange for a life sentence. The case has exposed the failings of the system and the abuse children suffer- at the hands of those who are meant to provide sanctity and the failure of agencies to safeguard.
On Wednesday, the mother told the jury that her daughter was a discipline problem — a ‘very difficult child’—and she wanted her dead. She admitted she hated Grace, shared a rape-murder fantasy with Sullivan, and helped hack up her daughter’s body and dispose of it months later.
At one point the mother sad she and her boyfriend hadn’t planned to kill the girl, rather to keep her in the attic for Sullivan to rape at will.
‘I think the reality of what he had done set in, and there was no going back,’ Packer told the court. ‘So he decided it was time for her to die.’
Sara Packer, who wore a red prison jumpsuit, also said she has a degree in psychology and an IQ over 140.
MOM’S TESTIMONY: She said Grace looked at her as she was being choked to death, and Sara Packer took her hand and told her it was “OK to go.” https://t.co/MWIkhro2Vb
— Action News on 6abc (@6abc) March 21, 2019
Sara Packer testimony: ‘I got wrapped up in Jake’s fantasy, and I didn’t think I could tell him no without losing him.’
Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub told the jury that he agreed to a life sentence for Sara Packer in exchange for her confession and guilty plea because the physical evidence against her was weak, because it was Sullivan who raped and killed Grace, and because her crimes did not qualify for the death penalty.
Speaking to Packer, Weintraub asked the mother, ‘Is it fair to say you are an utter and miserable failure at being a worthwhile human being?’
Relatives testified about the impact of the killing early Wednesday.
‘It sickens me to know that Grace was abused, tortured and literally thrown away like she was a piece of trash,’ said her cousin, Karie Heisserer, with whom Grace lived for a time in 2015. ‘Grace is in a better place now, free from evil and pain.’
Jurors were shown photos of the teen in happier times, sitting in the cab of her uncle’s big rig, frolicking in the sand at her first trip to the beach, delighting in birthday cake at a pool party. But all of that happened with relatives, not with Sara Packer, a former county adoptions supervisor who prosecutors say spent years physically and mentally abusing the little girl she fostered and then adopted.
Sara Packer testified that she and Sullivan tried to kill Grace with an overdose of over-the-counter medicine, thinking the pills and the heat of the attic would kill her. She also admitted helping bind her daughter with zip ties and stuffing a ball gag in her mouth.
The couple left her to die.
Grace eventually managed to escape some of her bindings and spit the gag out. But she was unable to make it out of the vacant house before Sullivan and Sara Packer returned overnight — some 12 hours later — and Sullivan strangled her.
Sara Packer and Sullivan stored Grace’s body in cat litter for months, then hacked it up and dumped it in a remote area where hunters found it in October 2016.
In a statement read by a detective, Grace’s younger brother, Josh Packer, now 14, said the only way he can bear his loss is if adults know her story and then act to prevent child abuse.
‘She didn’t have to die,’ Packer reflected of her daughter. ‘I got wrapped up in Jake’s fantasy, and I didn’t think I could tell him no without losing him.’
Sara Packer testimony: How she came to give up on her foster daughter.
When Packer and Sullivan first met in 2013, she said, Sullivan was her daughter’s ‘biggest advocate.’ But over time, Packer said, she ‘educated’ Sullivan, showing him how hard the child was to parent.
After Sullivan moved in with Packer, she said, she began grooming him to assault Grace in the same way she had groomed her ex-husband, David Packer, to assault a child she had fostered.
By July 2016, Packer said, she had ‘given up’ on the teen.