Chaplain Who Abused Women in Jail Pleads Guilty, May Get 15 Years in Prison

Cochise County Jail, where Packard's sexual misconduct against inmates allegedly occurred.
Cochise County Jail, where Packard's sexual misconduct against inmates allegedly occurred. Google Maps

The young woman sought out a Bible study before Christmas of last year. The studies involved just the woman, who was likely 21 at the time, and the pastor — private sessions behind the closed door of his office. At first he gave her candy, a rare luxury in her current home, and said he thought of her as a daughter. But then he started calling her beautiful, and told her he wanted to see her in a bikini.

Feeling uncomfortable, she quit the Bible study shortly thereafter.

But because D.K. was in jail, the pastor could call her into his office at will, an authority granted to him by the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office. D.K. didn’t have the ability to say no to these requests, even after the chaplain pinned her down and groped her genitals.

The harassment, which is detailed in a notice of claim, continued into the new year.

On November 21, Douglas Packer, who no longer works as chaplain at Cochise County Jail, pleaded guilty to sexual abuse, kidnapping, and unlawful sexual conduct against women who were in his care at the facility. His alleged crimes span five years, and he has admitted to acts of sexual misconduct against six current and former women inmates who came forward against him.

He’ll spend 15 years in prison if the judge in the Superior Court of the State of Arizona in Cochise County accepts his plea.

His most recent victims filed a notice of claim against him, Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels, and Cochise County in April; they're named in the document obtained by Phoenix New Times, but referred to only as D.K. and E.L. in court documents.

As the claim states, the two women were taken into his office in the jail on January 4, after Packer learned D.K. had told her cellmate E.L. he’d begun to sexually harass her. That day, he forced D.K. to perform oral sex on him while E.L. watched. After Packer ejaculated on D.K. and the jail floor, he forced E.L. to clean it up.

D.K. and E.L. filed complaints with the county shortly thereafter. Accusations from the four other women followed.

By January 24, Packer had four indictments against him in the Superior Court of Arizona in Cochise County, with a total of 39 counts of alleged sexual abuse, sexual assault, kidnapping, aggravated assault, unlawful sexual conduct, and indecent exposure against six people held at the jail.

In his guilty plea, he admits to kidnapping D.K. and unlawful sexual conduct against E.D. on January 4; sexual abuse against an inmate named in the indictment and plea agreement as N.C. in July 2018; and unlawful sexual conduct against A.D., S.P., and M.M. that occurred in various episodes between October 2014 and June 2018.
click to enlarge Douglas Packard, former chaplain at Cochise County Jail, pleaded guilty to counts of kidnapping, sexual abuse, and unlawful sexual conduct on November 21. - COCHISE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
Douglas Packard, former chaplain at Cochise County Jail, pleaded guilty to counts of kidnapping, sexual abuse, and unlawful sexual conduct on November 21.
Cochise County Sheriff's Office

His sentencing is scheduled for January 13, 2020. If Superior Court Judge Laura Cardinal accepts his plea agreement, the other counts will be dropped and he’ll spend 15 years in jail. He'll be put on lifetime probation when he gets out, and he’ll have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

All of the victims were consulted ahead of Packer’s plea, and each agreed to the terms of the agreement, according to Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre.

While he could not provide many details due to victim confidentiality, he said some of the women remain incarcerated in facilities in southern Arizona and others are not. McIntyre said the situation has added challenges to providing traditional victim support services.

“This case, obviously, is much more challenging given the location of some of the victims,” said McIntyre. “But our prosecutor and the lead detective went to the facility that was housing some of the victims to meet personally with each of them.”

The county attorney declined to comment on the terms of the plea deal ahead of Packer’s formal sentencing.

E.L. and D.K. are seeking financial damages in civil court of $2,325,000, according to the notice of claim. This amount is not necessarily final, according to a spokesperson from Miller, Pitt, Feldman & McAnally, P.C, the law firm representing them. The notice of claim also alleges that "employees of the Cochise County Sheriff's Office who worked at the jail were aware of Packer's predatory behavior toward young female inmates but took no actions to prevent this assault, and potentially dozens of others, from occurring." The firm declined to comment further on the case.

Packer is currently being held at the Santa Cruz County Jail; bail was set at $250,000 prior to his guilty plea. He had been with the Cochise County Jail since 2012. The Arizona Detention Association named him chaplain of the year in 2015.

Jacob Amaru, Packer’s lawyer, did not respond to requests for comment.

Cochise County Sheriff’s Office has not yet responded to requests for comment on the chaplain, or its jail’s policies.
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Hannah Critchfield was an editorial fellow for Phoenix New Times starting in 2019.