Sara Packer testifies in sentencing of Jacob Sullivan

Jim Melwert
March 20, 2019 - 3:36 pm
Sara Packer

Bucks County District Attorney's Office

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ATTENTION: This story contains details about violence that some readers may find objectionable.

UPDATED: 5 p.m.

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DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — The woman who conspired with her boyfriend to kill her 14-year-old adopted daughter testified on his behalf as his attorneys tried to keep him off death row. 

Sara Packer showed no emotion even as she explained the minutes when her boyfriend Jacob Sullivan choked 14-year-old Grace Packer to death.

Packer was called to testify by Sullivan's defense as they tried to keep him off death row. He has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and other charges. 

RELATED: Jury hears Jacob Sullivan hospital bed confession tapes

Now prosecutors are arguing he should be given the death penalty rather than life in prison. That decision will be up to a jury.

Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub, through an agreement with the defense, read the reasons why they are offering Packer life without parole.

He said that, while Jacob Sullivan gave a full confession, Sara Packer did not confess and, in Weintraub’s words, the case against her was weak.

He also says that, while Packer conspired in the crimes, she did not physically rape or assault the girl.

And because she conspired, and she was present for the actual murder, since she didn’t actually kill her, the death penalty would not apply.

READ: Life without parole or death? Jury deliberates man who raped, killed girl, 14

Attorneys for Sullivan have argued that Packer was the brains behind the murder plot and that she manipulated him.

But according to her testimony, it was Sullivan’s fantasy and she went along with it out of fear of losing him.

She testified the original plan was to keep the 14-year-old sedated and locked in a closet in the attic of their home near Quakertown. But she says after Sullivan raped the girl, she thinks he panicked and decided it was time for her to die.

Packer also testified she’d bought a bow-saw, not only to dismember her daughter in an attempt to hide the body, but also to cut firewood. That prompted Bucks County judge Diane Gibbons to step in and ask if she really intended to keep the saw to cut firewood. Packer replied the plan was to cut the firewood first.

Some jurors dabbed at their eyes as a statement written by Grace Packer's brother Josh was read by the Abington detective who first handled the case after Sara Packer reported her daughter missing.

He wrote that he wants his sister to be remembered so, in his words, people watch out for kids so a loss like hers never happens again.

If his sister was told that, by giving her life, she could save many others, she would have simply asked what she needed to do, he wrote.

Packer plans to plead guilty to first-degree murder and other charges after Sullivan’s case is complete.