A Pennsylvania mom, whose adopted 14-year-old daughter was raped, strangled and dismembered, testified in court that she helped in the plot to kill her daughter because the girl had become a “nonentity” to her and she “wanted her to go away.”
Sara Packer, 44, revealed the disturbing details in a sentencing hearing for Jacob Sullivan, Packer’s boyfriend who has admitted to punching Grace Packer in the face, raping her and then later choking the life out of her on July 8, 2016 while her mother looked on, according to The Philadelphia Enquirer.
“I took her hand and told her it was OK to go,” Packer said in court. “It seemed like it took forever, but it was only a couple minutes.”
Initially the couple had planned to keep Grace locked in a hot basement in Pennsylvania for Sullivan to rape at will, but after attacking the girl earlier in the day Packer said Sullivan panicked and “decided it was time for her to die.”
Sullivan, 46, pleaded guilty last month to 18 charges against him, including first-degree murder and rape of a child. The jurors are now deciding whether he will receive the death penalty or spend the rest of his life behind bars.
In an emotionless voice, Sara Packer calmly told the jury that she had “hated” Grace.
While other relatives testified earlier in the day that Grace was a bright and bubbly girl who loved music and swimming, her adoptive mother told the jury she was “a difficult child” who often needed to be punished.
"Grace had become, for lack of a better word, a non-entity," Packer said, according to the Associated Press. "She just didn't exist anymore. I wanted her to go away."
Packer, a former county adoptions supervisor, had spent years physically and mentally abusing the teen before her death, WCAU reports.
Packer and her husband at the time, David Packer, adopted Grace and her brother Josh in 2007 and cared for dozens of other foster children in their home.
David Packer was later sent to prison for sexually assaulting Grace and another foster daughter, but Grace still remained in the home.
Packer and Sullivan met in 2013 and although Packer said Sullivan had initially been her daughter’s “biggest advocate” she said she eventually “educated” him.
She began grooming him to sexually assault her daughter and admitted to secretly putting medication in her daughter’s pudding to “maker her compliant, make her groggy.”
They drugged her again on July 7, before taking her to one of their rental homes. Sullivan punched the teen in the face and then raped her as her mother watched.
During the attack, Grace had looked to her mother for help. But Packer said she told Grace, “I can’t help you anymore. This is now your life.”
The couple then put a ball gag in her mouth and hogtied her with zip ties before leaving her in the sweltering attic.
“I got wrapped up in Jake’s fantasy,” Packer said, according to The Morning Call. “I didn’t think I could tell him no without losing him.”
The next morning when the pair returned, they found that Grace had broken free of the zip ties and had spit out the gag. Sullivan grabbed her from behind, put her in a choke hold and suffocated her.
The couple stored the body in cat litter, before buying a bowsaw to cut up the body and dump it in the woods in Luzerne County, a 75-mile drive from their home. Hunters would later stumble upon the remains on Halloween of that year.
As media attention began to grow in the case, Packer and Sullivan attempted suicide. Sullivan later confessed to the crime at the hospital saying Grace had been a “nightmare,” according to The Enquirer.
Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub told jurors he agreed to a life sentence in exchange for a confession and guilty plea from Packer, because there was less physical evidence against her in the case.
Those who knew the young teen are still struggling to come to terms with her brutal death.
"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. "Grace is in a better place now, free from evil and pain."
In a statement read in court, Grace’s younger brother, Josh, said the only way he would be able to bear the loss of his sister is if adults know her story and do what they can to prevent child abuse.
“Watch out for all the kids so that a loss like Grace’s loss never happens again,” the now-14-year-old wrote. “Do your best to help kids who can’t help themselves.”
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