BISBEE — A former Cochise County Jail chaplain accused of sexually assaulting six female inmates pleaded guilty Thursday to several sex crimes and kidnapping charges, offenses that will send him to prison for 15 years, attorneys said.
Douglas Packer had initially entered a not guilty plea when accusations against him by two female inmates surfaced in January. Those claims were echoed by an additional four women who also had been jail inmates, authorities said.
Packer entered his guilty plea before Cochise County Superior Judge Timothy Dickerson. Defense attorney Jake Amaru said Packer wanted to spare his victims further anguish.
“I think Mr. Packer wanted to diminish the impact the case would have on his victims and their families,” Amaru said.
Lori Zucco, the chief criminal deputy county attorney, said Friday the 64-year-old Packer pleaded guilty to kidnapping with intent to commit sexual abuse, sexual abuse, and four counts of sexual misconduct with each of the six victims.
“He admitted an aggravating factor that he caused emotional harm to each of the victims,” Zucco said. “The victims were consulted about the plea and each supported it.”
Packer faces 15 years in prison, as well as lifetime probation and lifetime sex offender registration, Zucco said. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 13.
Amaru had initially filed motions asking that his client be tried outside of Cochise County and by another prosecutor’s office. He said that because Packer had been a Cochise County employee, he did not think his client could have an impartial jury or an impartial prosecutor, since Packer had worked for Cochise County.
At the time, Cochise County Superior Judge Laura Cardinal said that the county attorney’s office did not have a direct relationship with Packer.
Packer was a ministry volunteer at the county jail in Bisbee from 2008 until his hiring as detention center chaplain in 2012. He was recognized as Chaplain of the Year by the Arizona Detention Association in 2015.
The accolades ended on Jan. 5 when he was relieved of duty following allegations by two female inmates. Detention officer Lt. Christy Heisner notified superiors of the allegations after talking to the inmates on Jan. 4. Cochise County Sheriff’s detectives Todd Borquez and Jesus Davidson investigated and arrested Packer the next day.
On Jan. 14, Packer pleaded not guilty to the charges brought by two of the women. Bail was set at $250,000, but then increased to $550,000 when four other inmates came forward with allegations.
The accusations were made by six female inmates whose names have not been released. The allegations against Packer date back to 2014.