At the sentencing hearing for Jacob Sullivan, the man who admitted to raping and murdering his girlfriend’s teen daughter, family members testified that the defendant is a “gentle giant” and said they couldn’t believe he did what he confessed to doing.
The Morning Call reports that about a half-dozen family members, including Sullivan’s father, testified at the sentencing hearing in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Monday morning before a jury will decide if Sullivan will get life in prison or the death penalty for the 2016 murder of 14-year-old Grace Packer.
Sullivan pleaded guilty to numerous charges in Grace’s prolonged torture and killing, which he carried out with the participation and encouragement of his girlfriend and Grace’s adoptive mother, Sara Packer. Packer also testified at Sullivan’s sentencing hearing and is expected to enter a guilty plea after his sentencing, reportedly sparing herself the death penalty.
According to the Morning Call, Sullivan’s brother, stepsister, and cousins were among relatives who traveled from as far as Hawaii to testify at his sentencing hearing, stating their “shock” about the rape and murder. Sullivan’s aunt Lynn Hughes, who described the man as a “gentle giant,” reportedly showed the courtroom photos of Sullivan and his four children together at the Wisconsin State Fair. But none of those children have been in the courtroom, and the Chief Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Schorn reportedly said that none have participated at all in their father’s defense.
Sullivan’s own father Charles Reitzner reportedly took the stand.
“I’m here because I love him,” Reitzner said. “I still can’t believe it. Jake was always gentle and loving.”
Relatives spoke of “choatic” conditions in Sullivan’s childhood, which was reportedly spent in Wisconsin and later in San Francisco. The relatives said that his parents never lived together, and that his mother was an alcoholic. Reitzner reportedly admitted to using drugs, experimentally.
Last week, a psychologist reportedly testified at the hearing the Sullivan had been a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a man and a woman acting together, but the Morning Call reports that none of Sullivan’s relatives made any mention of this.
More witnesses are expected to testify on Monday afternoon, and jury will likely made a decision on Tuesday.