Mom accused in daughter's dismemberment was child welfare worker
EASTON, Pa. – A woman charged with killing and dismembering her adoptive daughter as part of a rape-murder fantasy she and her boyfriend shared had previously worked as an adoption supervisor for a children's welfare agency, authorities said Monday.
Sara Packer worked as a supervisor for the Northampton County Children, Youth and Families Division for adoptions from 2003 to 2010, when she was suspended, the county said.
Packer was arraigned Sunday on charges including criminal homicide, rape and abuse of a corpse. Her boyfriend, Jacob Sullivan, was arraigned on similar charges.
Packer and Sullivan didn't enter pleas and were denied bail, and no attorney information was available for them. But Sullivan apologized as he was led into court, the Intelligencer newspaper reported.
"I'm sorry for what I did," Sullivan said. "It was wrong."
Officials say 14-year-old Grace Packer was beaten, was raped as her mother watched, was poisoned and hours later was strangled in a stifling attic in July.
Investigators say the couple packed Grace's body with cat litter to mask decomposition smells and stored it in the attic. Officials allege the couple dismembered the body in October after being scared by a police visit.
The girl's torso was found by hunters in a Luzerne County park on Oct. 31, and K-9 teams found her legs and arms nearby, a criminal complaint said.
Bucks County prosecutors said the days and hours leading up to Grace's killing "were probably the most horrible and traumatic that any person should ever have had to experience."
Sara Packer had previously been charged with child endangerment and obstruction. Police say she provided misleading information to investigators when reporting that Grace was missing from their Abington home in July.
Authorities say after numerous unsuccessful attempts to contact Packer through August, on Sept. 7 investigators learned Grace and her younger brother had been withdrawn from Abington School District. The investigation later revealed Packer had moved about 35 miles north to Quakertown without telling police and her 12-year-old adopted son, Grace's biological brother, had been enrolled in Quakertown School District.
Authorities said Packer kept cashing her daughter's monthly $700 Social Security checks and updated disability forms in August without mentioning the girl's disappearance. It's unclear what the girl's disability was.
Sullivan and Packer made a suicide pact and tried to overdose on prescription pills on Dec. 30, a criminal complaint said. They were hospitalized after being found by a woman who lived with them.
Prosecutors said Sullivan began confessing to the killing overnight Friday into Saturday to workers at the hospital where he was being treated.
Northampton County Controller Stephen Barron Jr. told Allentown's The Morning Call newspaper on Monday that Sara Packer's employment status with the county was listed as "suspended" in 2010. But Barron said he had no details on why she had been suspended.
According to court records, Packer's ex-husband, David Packer, was charged by Allentown police in two child sex abuse cases, in November 2010 and in January 2011. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months to five years in prison. Records show the couple divorced last June.
David Packer's lawyer from his 2010 case said he couldn't comment on Monday.
A man who answered the phone at Sara Packer's father's home declined to comment and hung up.