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Grace Packer loved butterflies. She liked playing outside. She was fully of "girly giggles."

That's how the 14-year-old girl was remembered Monday at a memorial service, months after her murder.

But those who packed New Life Presbyterian Church in Glenside also addressed the horror of her death.

"We will not mince words: This was a wicked thing," said pastor Mark Davis, speaking to a crowd of about 300 people. "This is an outrage."

Sara Packer, the teen's adoptive mother, and her boyfriend, Jacob Sullivan, were charged last week with killing the girl in a rape-murder fantasy and leaving her body in their attic for months before dismembering and dumping it. The girl's remains were found in Luzerne County on Halloween.

Both remain jailed while they await a preliminary hearing later this week.

Grace had been born in Norristown, but was taken from her birth parents more than a decade ago because of concerns about abuse by other family members in their home.

At Monday's service, her biological mother, Rose Hunsicker, sat at the front of the church. She left before it ended, sobbing as friends and volunteers led her from the room.

She didn't address the crowd, but other speakers shared glimpses of happiness the girl did experience before her brutal death: getting manicures with a friend, mini-golfing, loving cats and reading and swimming.

Jackie Schwanbeck, one of the five Abington moms who organized the memorial, read aloud a letter from an adult friend of Grace's.

"We would do anything to hear your voice," said the letter. "Grace, I miss your girly giggles."

The memorial also included songs, readings, poems, and the reading of an obituary that described Grace: "While she deeply cared for others, her one true wish was to feel like she belonged."

Andrea Adams, another organizer, said the Abington Junior High student must be "remembered for the person that she was, and not the horrible way she died."

At the front of the church, among flowers and other photos, was a framed note Grace had hand-written to a classmate: "Bobby, you are an amazing person."

Megan Dockstader, 16, of Abington, said she did not know Grace but her younger brother had classes with her. Dockstader attended the service with friends, some of whom remembered seeing Grace in the hallways at school.

"The fact that she could come to school and seem happy and then go home with all this stuff happening at home, it's crazy," said Dockstader.

Many others who filled the church to remember Grace had never met her.

"We kind of felt compelled to come," said Abbe Sherman-Farber, who attended with her daughter, a 2016 graduate of Abington High School. She said she never imagined something so terrible could happen in her own town.

But how she could have been so abused and mistreated - while community members were unaware or unable to step in - was a question that loomed over the service.

"It would be wrong not to be angry," said Davis, the pastor, wiping away tears from his eyes.

That anger, he said, should also be used to expose child abuse and guard against it.

"We need to be a little more vigilant, a little more engaged," Davis said.

 

lmccrystal@phillynews.com

610-313-8116

Compelled to come:

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