Mandatory review of Grace Packer's life finds cracks in child welfare system

Jim Melwert
April 02, 2019 - 3:05 pm
Jacob Sullivan and Sara Packer

Bucks County District Attorney's Office


DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — The man and woman who killed 14-year-old Grace Packer are behind bars — one for life, the other on death row. 

Now, a mandatory review of the teen's death offers numerous recommendations to try fill the cracks that she slipped through. 


The report spans Grace's entire life, from her time with her biological parents to her life with her adoptive parents, David and Sara Packer. 

In 2005, when Grace was about to turn 4, there were already concerns Grace had been molested, the report says, though it was unclear who molested her.

In 2010, David Packer pleaded guilty to indecent assault for molesting her. According to the heavily redacted report, Grace was placed with his parents, but they didn’t believe her. The report says they blamed her for their son’s arrest and were hostile toward her.

As a result, Sara Packer kept custody of the little girl. 

In 2016, Sara Packer and her boyfriend, Jacob Sullivan, killed Grace in what prosecutors call a "rape-murder fantasy."

The report points to "many red flags" while listing numerous recommendations for the child welfare system.

Speaking strictly about the recommendations, Abbie Newman, CEO of Mission Kids in Montgomery County, said the most important change is proper funding and staffing in the child welfare system. 

Currently, if a case is unfounded by an agency — which doesn’t mean the abuse did not happen, but rather it just couldn’t be proved — after one year, she said it is expunged.

"If there are more allegations that are made, there’s not going to be a trail for any professionals in the future to follow — neither police nor social workers — and that’s really problematic," Newman added.

She noted it’s also important stop dividing case records by county and standardize records so they can easily be shared if a child is moved from one county to another, like medical records.

"If a family moves with a child, there should records so they can pick up on where the last county social workers left off so there’s continuity of care and following this child and the family," she explained.

Sara Packer moved Grace several times, from county to county. While it isn’t clear if that was intentional, Sara Packer had a knowledge of the system as she was a supervisor with Northampton County Children, Youth and Families.