In July of last year, Grace Packer's life was brutally taken from her. She was given sleeping pills that failed to work, after which a man admits to have raped and sexually abused her, as his sexually aroused girlfriend watched. After that, she was forced to take a lethal dose of sleeping pills, but she threw up. The couple left her in a third floor attic, bound and gagged, assuming the heat would kill her. When that failed, the man put his arms around her from behind and "squeezed the life out of her." After this brutal act, the loving couple packed Grace in kitty litter and later sawed her desiccated remains and scattered them in Luzerne County, where they were discovered by hunters on Halloween.
Thankfully, that loving couple is now behind bars. What was not generally known until recently is that accused murderer Sara Packer, who was Grace's adopting mother, was an employee of NorCo's Children, Youth and Families (CYF) Division. In fact, she was the adoption supervisor, and was also a foster mother to about 30 children from Berks and Lehigh County. She was also a foster mother to a child from Northampton County.
While the print media yawned and prepared for Christmas, WFMZ-TV69 and NBC10 were tracking down the rumor that Packer had at onetime been Northampton County's adoption supervisor. Deanna Durante reported this on December 28, and WFMZ-TV69 made the connection even earlier, on December 23.
Durante had been making inquiries with the county since early December, and had run into a stone wall. Calls went unreturned. Then she was misled and told that the County has no employee named Sara Packer, without telling her that Packer had been fired in 2010. After hitting roadblocks everywhere she went, she called every member of Northampton County Council. Ken Kraft told her to speak to Controller Steve Barron, and he connected the dots and provided her with information that the public had every right to know.
"Basically, no one else would speak," Barron explained."I would."
After about a week of publicity on local television stations, it finally dawned on print media that this just might be a story. So they joined the chorus of voices with all kinds of questions for the John Brown administration.. Administrator Cathy Allen issued a two sentence news release that failed to do anything to reassure the public about CYF. This silence continued in the face of claims of ineptness in CYF by a recently retired supervisor. It continued as it became known that Sara Packer's termination was clearly related to allegations of abuse involving Grace, which included the prosecution of Sara's now ex-husband for sexually abusing Grace when she was about nine years old.
Every day another shoe would drop.
Yesterday, Bethlehem Attorney and NorCo Exec candidate Lamont McClure took Brown to task:
"The County administration has been very slow to explain how this alleged person involved in this horrible death was in charge of adoptions in this county. This Executive has yet to fully explain and put the people of Northampton County at ease with respect to what her role was, what she did, what cases she handled, and the people of Northampton County are entitled to an answer."
|One month after Packer's NorCo connection established,|
Brown releases a statement
It was thought that answers would come later, when the Human Services Committee was scheduled to meet.In fact, NBC10's Deanna Durante came to that meeting, looking for answers.
She was answered with more radio silence.
The agenda failed to include a single mention of CYF or the Sara Packer case. Human Services Director Allison Frantz was nowhere to be found, and CYF Director Kevin Dolan was MIA as well. Allison Frantz had sent a memo to CYF staff, telling them to seek a "healthy resolution to the shock of these events," but failed to speak up for them when they needed her.
A tenacious Durante went right up to the podium and began asking Council members what they are doing. The answer, quite clearly, is nothing.
"Does anybody like to answer her question?" said Chairman Seth Vaughn, with what certainly looked like a smirk on his face.
"If I may, I think that's more of a legal issue that we shouldn't touch," said an evasive Mat Benol, notwithstanding a plaque of the Ten Commandments behind him,instructing that he be truthful.
Durante: "Any concern from any of you on the fact that she handled the county's children and now we know today that one child from Northampton County was placed in her care as a foster mother?" continued Durante.
Benol said that's something the Solicitor should address. In other words, circle the wagons.
Durante: "This is the Committee that oversees health and human services, is it not?"
Benol: "I would refer all questions to our Solicitor."
Durante: "How about as taxpayers, as parents, as community members, do you have anything you want to say?"
Benol: "Unfortunately, when I'm on this side of the dais, I'm going to refrain from any comment."
Durante: "So when you walk to this side, you'll give me an interview and give me a comment?"
He agreed, but I'm unclear whether that happened. Benol is usually busy after meetings, hiding his Ten Commandments plaque so Ken Kraft does not steal it.
Later that night, when the full County Council met, Durante was rebuffed a second time while The Morning Call's Tom Shortell huffed on Twitter, "Traditional media doesn't typically speak during public comment." Maybe that's because traditional media have had their heads up their asses while Durante ran circles around them. Traditional media should ask more questions, and if it has to be at courtesy of the floor, so what?
Durante also peppered Brown with questions, including why he ignored her for three weeks. He continued to ignore her.
Though Council members had no time or inclination to discuss the murder and rape of a 15 year-old child, they had all the time in the world for a group of anti-shit people from the Wind Gap area opposed to Synagro's proposed shit bakery at the Waste Management landfill. NorCo Council has absolutely no authority to interfere in these matters of local concern, but they apparently never shit themselves and wanted the entire world to know that they oppose shit. There will likely be a resolution at the next meeting in which a majority will declare that they hate shit.
But they were unwilling to explain to the public (1) how many CYF caseworkers are out there; (2) what their caseload is like; (3) how many hours they work daily; (4) whether interviews are being conducted with every family that Sara Packer touched; what the educational requirements are for a CYF worker; (5) what kind of certifications are needed; (6) how many hours of continuing education are received each year. Those questions and many others can be answered without violating the confidentiality owed to an employee or the children who are placed by Northampton County. But Brown and now Council prefer to circle the wagons than to provide answers for the public that just might make them more confident in CYF. This lack of transparency creates a culture that suits people like Sara Packer just fine.
By the by, The Express Times was missing in action as usual. That suits Northampton County government just fine,too. The less you know, the better.
Blogger's Note: You can see Durante's story on NBC10 here.