Sullivan gets death penalty for murder of 14-year-old girl

Jacob Sullivan
Photo credit Bucks County District Attorney's Office
By KYW Newsradio 1060

UPDATED: 12:13 p.m.

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Jacob Sullivan has been sentenced to death for the murder of 14-year-old Grace Packer.
The jury deliberated for more than 11 hours over three days on the question of whether he should get life without parole or the death penalty. On Wednesday, the jury told the judge that they were deadlocked, which would have resulted in a life sentence without parole. However, when they came back first thing Thursday morning, the holdouts had evidently changed their minds.

.@BucksDa shares his thoughts on the task the Sullivan jury was given. @KYWNewsradio

— Jim Melwert (@JMelwert) March 28, 2019

More than one juror clearly showed the emotion of the decision.

The emotion of the decision was clear on the faces of the jurors as each was polled whether they agreed with the verdict. Bucks County judge Diane Gibbons said to them that this was a very difficult case, a very graphic case, a very exceptional murder, telling them to take care of themselves after going through what they went through.

Gibbons thanked the jury and told them, "The butchery in this case is beyond my ability to describe. To live vicariously through that took a lot out of me, and I’m sure for you."

She said if jurors have any feeling the need to talk about, they should talk to someone about them.

Judge Gibbons sentenced Sullivan to death, life without parole, and 44 to 88 years in prison.

Sullivan pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. Grace Packer was the adopted daughter of Sara Packer. Sullivan and Packer lived out what prosecutors called a "rape-murder" fantasy, killing the girl in Quakertown back in July 2016. 

Defense attorney Jack Fagan had argued to the jury that they should look at Sullivan’s life with no criminal record and no history of violence, and asked them to give significant weight to his confession, which led to the arrest of co-defendant Sara Packer.

Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub countered that the arguments for the defense do not have the same weight as the evidence against Sullivan, reminding jurors of a question he had asked at the beginning: "What is the worst thing you can conceive of doing to a child?"

Weintraub argued that Sullivan’s confession was no more than an attempt to get the crushing weight off his chest after his suicide attempt earlier in the month.

At the sentencing, Gibbons said to Sullivan, "You are not human," and "You have no soul." She said she thinks he tried to kill himself because he was "afraid someone would do to you what you did to her."

Sara Packer's sentencing had been on hold until this was complete. The lawyers have schedule conflicts today and tomorrow, so they are trying to plan a time when they can officially accept her plea and sentence her. She worked out a deal with prosecutors and will get life in prison without parole.