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Brutally murdered teen Grace Packer suffered abuse, neglect for years in adoptive home

by Ellen Killoran

Grace Packer’s former foster sisters have spoken out

More details are emerging about the tragic life of 14-year-old Grace Packer, who was brutally raped and murdered by her adoptive mother and her mother’s boyfriend this July, before they cut up her body and tossed her remains in a remote Pennsylvania forest area.

The circumstances of Grace’s death — which authorities believe was a premeditated fulfillment of a ‘rape-murder fantasy’ — are horrific; nearly unimaginable. And now, Grace’s former foster sisters have revealed that the developmentally challenged girl suffered years of abuse and bullying at the hands of her adoptive parents.

READ also: DA: Murder of teen Grace Packer a premeditated ‘rape-murder fantasy’

Sara Packer and her boyfriend Jacob Sullivan are in custody on multiple charges related to Grace’s rape and murder. Prior to her relationship with Sullivan, Sara was married to David Packer, who has since served jail time for sexually abusing Grace and another underage foster sister, who is now an adult and spoke to the Associated Press.

The woman, whose name was withheld, said she was certain Sara Packer was aware of the sexual abuse, which began when she was 15 years old. She said David installed her in a bedroom next to the one he shared with Sara. There he would tie her to her bedpost, sometimes leaving her there overnight. He would also tie her to a chair and gag her, demanding that she wear revealing clothing as part of the sexual abuse. The woman would only learn later that Grace was also being abused, but witnessed other forms of mistreatment.

“Some parts of (Grace’s) brain didn’t work like ours, and you’d have to tell her more than a few times to do things. And Sara didn’t like that. She yelled, she screamed. She hit her. She was just a big bully to her,” she told the Associated Press.

Another former foster sister told the AP that Sara Packer treated Grace horribly, while favoring her Grace’s biological younger brother, who she also adopted.

“Her favorite child, and you could see it plain as day, had always been Gracie’s brother,” Jade Tenezaca said. “She was more demanding on Gracie to be normal. But Gracie is not normal. Gracie had a learning disability.” Tenezaca recalled a chilling account of watching an episode of CSI with Sara Packer, during which Packer said if she ever killed someone she would chop up the body and burn it.

A third foster sister also said that Grace was treated poorly by her parents, but nonetheless maintained a warm disposition. “They were really mean to Gracie in the home. She was always in trouble,” Rodack told the Associated Press. “They would hit her, they would ground her and take stuff from her and keep her in her room. I felt bad for her.

READ also: ‘Fait Accompli’: Murdered teen Grace Packer left in abusive home after mother banned from taking in more foster children

Packer took in up to 30 foster children and worked as an adoption supervisor before she was forced to leave her job amid the discovery of her husband’s abuse. At that time, all foster children were removed and she was prohibited from taking any more foster children in. But Grace and her brother, who were formally adopted, remained, and Sara was never charged in relation to her husband’s abuse.

Sara Packer and Jacob Sullivan were hospitalized in late December after a failed suicide pact. There, Sullivan reportedly confessed to the rape and murder, and told authorities that Packer was with him every step of the way. According to an affidavit, Sullivan and Packer brought Grace to a home they had recently rented. There, Sullivan punched her in the face and raped her while her mother watched. The couple then sedated Grace, bound and gagged her, and placed her in a cedar closet that Sullivan told police was extremely hot, leaving her there to die. But when they returned hour later expecting to find her dead body, Grace was alive and conscious. Sullivan suffocated her with his arm, reportedly telling police he “slowly squeezed the life out of her.”

 

Photo: Abington Township Police

Ellen is a seasoned journalist and former media & entertainment reporter with a taste for true crime. Formerly a senior editor at IBTimes, her work has appeared in Forbes, Rolling Stone, Maxim, NYMag, Indiewire, and more. She co-produced the HBO documentary "Youth Knows No Pain" and appeared in a documentary series that aired alongside the Lifetime movie "Manson's Lost Girls."