When Jacob Sullivan was found guilty of killing 14-year-old Grace Packer, he knew that his days were ending. Because he treated the girl so cruelly and with so little humanity, Sullivan did not expect much in return from the judge who would be handing down his sentence. When the verdict of his death sentence was declared, the jury was free to leave the Bucks County Justice Center and put the horrible details of the Grace Packer murder behind them.
But the reality was just getting started for Jacob Sullivan. He still had to hear what was going to happen to him next. And the jury members, all twelve of them, wanted to know too. They refused to leave the courtroom. Instead, they shuffled into the next room so they could hear what Judge Diane E. Gibbons was going to do with Jacob Sullivan now that he was convicted.
“We wanted to see it through,” said jury foreman Kevin McDermott. “You see stuff like this on television, but you’re never immersed in it. For two weeks, we were.”
McDermott was one of the twelve people to find Sullivan guilty of raping and murdering the innocent 14-year-old victim. It took McDermott and his jury of peers twelve hours over the course of three days to deliberate on whether Sullivan should get the death penalty.
But after Sullivan admitted that he, along with Grace’s adoptive mother, Sara Packer, dismembered the teen’s body and dumped her in bits and pieces around Luzerne County, the jury did not need to think too hard about everything. They knew what a man like Sullivan deserved. They knew the world would be better without him in it.
When Sullivan pleaded guilty, he described how he and Sara plotted Grace’s rape and murder for months. They carried it out on July 8, 2016, in a home they rented for the purpose. Parker is expected to spend the rest of her life in prison.
The jury got what they came for when Judge Gibbons finally looked at Sullivan and said four words of truth.
“You have no soul,” Gibbons told Sullivan.
Those words made no impact on Sullivan. He had no sign that warm blood ever coursed through his veins – let alone felt any normal emotions.
Judge Gibbons added, “I have never said that to another human being in my life, and I hope not to say it again, though I expect to say something similar to Sara Packer.”
Throughout the death penalty hearing, Gibbons admitted that the evidence prevented her from sleeping. It was so gruesome and horrific that it is hard to imagine that a human being was capable of doing it. She also encouraged the members of the jury to seek therapy or counseling afterward if they needed it. There was no shame in it.
“The butchery, in this case, was beyond my ability to describe,” Gibbons said. “To live through it vicariously through the photos and the tapes and the recordings … must have taken a toll.”
Gibbons called Sullivan a “monster” and coward for begging detectives to keep him safe in prison.
“Like the little baby you are, you asked them to protect you, because you’re scared of having done to you what you did to this child,” Gibbons taunted.
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