JACKSON HOLE, WYO – For the second time in a week, Teton County attorney Steve Weichman found himself telling a judge the man he wanted put away deserved some credit for admitting to his crimes.
On behalf of two of rape victims who gave victim impact statements at the sentencing hearing of Donald Pack, 66, the prosecutor said their lives were irrevocably changed, for some 40 years now, and likely forever. “For them, the shine and splendor of life is dulled and dimmed,” Weichman said. “And nothing about the passage of time has eased the suffering of Becky* and Laura*.”
Weichman and defense attorney Tom Fleener both referred often to how unusual the case before them was. Expert witnesses brought by Fleener also commented that rarely did they have the opportunity to see the long-term effects of rehabilitation on a person who had been through the penal system and then lived a quiet life for 25 after being released from prison.
Judge Marvin Tyler also admitted it was difficult to find sentencing precedent for a man who had already served 15 years on a First-Degree Rape conviction in 1976, but had never had to face the music for two other rapes he committed during a booze and cocaine-fueled crime spree in Jackson that spanned 1974-75.
Cops figured Pack had raped multiple women from 1974 through 1975 but they could only pin one on him. On October 12, 1975, Pack followed a young server home from the Pink Garter Steak House late that night. Somewhere in the Hoback Canyon he flashed his headlights for her to pull over. Fearing something wrong with her vehicle, the victim did.
She was forced into Pack’s truck and later, according to court documents, “forced to undress, perform oral copulation on her assailant, and then complete sexual intercourse.”
Pack was sent to the state pen in Rawlins for the crime. When he got out he moved to Cheyenne where he took up residence in a trailer park. He began dating the trailer park’s owner and before long became manager of the property—a position he has held since the mid1990s.
Then, the four-decade-old case against Pack was reopened after a special agent from the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation began poking around the evidence room of the Jackson Police Department while looking into the 1989 disappearance of Kathy Perhinger of Riverton. He found semen-stained panties from an unsolved rape case and sent the evidence to the state lab for testing.
More modern tests than were available in 1975 concluded the DNA matched that of Pack’s. He was arrested at his home in December 2017 and posted $150,000 bond for release until yesterday’s sentencing.
One of the investigators on the original serial rape cases was a young Tim Day. Day, now a Circuit Court judge, offered to recuse himself from the ruling over the sentencing. Pack’s attorney Fleener said that wasn’t necessary but Tyler replaced him anyway just to be safe.
Rape victim’s give account
Becky took the stand first. She was in her early 20s when Pack kicked her cabin door in and entered her home wearing a black ski mask. He forced her to the ground, then onto the bed, and raped her. “No one knows the terror I felt. I thought he would kill me,” she said.
Becky said for years later she had moments where she felt she was going crazy.
“This poor excuse for a human being should not be released from jail,” Becky said, turning toward Judge Tyler. “Please be harsh. I don’t care how old he is or about the time he has served. He should have thought of that a long time ago. I will never speak his name again. I will always be looking over my shoulder for another man who is seeking to take advantage of me. Always.”
Laura remembers that night in 1975 when she was raped by Pack just four days shy of her 25 birthday. She was home alone. Her roommate was away. She heard a noise. Then the bedroom door opened and there was a man with a mask and a gun.
“After 43 years, I don’t remember exactly what he said or what I said, but have never forgotten the fear,” Laura began. “He got his pants down and rubbed the gun on my cheek. He said not to make a noise. He proceeded to sexual assault me. I remember saying the Lord’s prayer out loud. I remember thinking if he shot me my family would have nothing good to put on my tombstone.”
When it was over, Pack told Laura he would come back and kill her if she called the police. Laura hid in a closet and waited until morning before she dared call anyone. She tried a friend Terry Rogers. He wasn’t home. Then she made the call she dreaded—to her father.
“He lived two doors up the street. My dad and I were distant at that time. He hung up after I told him what happened,” Laura remembered. She felt even more alone and abandoned. “But in a short time my dad came flying through the back door and we talked about what happened.”
Laura’s father convinced his daughter to contact authorities. A rape kit was administered but the assailant’s sperm was accidentally washed down a drain.
She stayed with her dad, but for days she couldn’t sleep. As police units staked out the house outside, Laura lived in constant fear. She kept knives everywhere for protection, took a fire poker on trips to the bathroom. She lost 25 pounds in a month.
Months later, just when the terror began to abate, she got a phone call. It was him. She recognized the voice of her rapist. He reminded her to stop talking to police or he would kill her.
Laura thought she recognized the voice as someone she knew: Don Pack. Pack hardly tried to conceal the fact. He would drive by the bowling alley late at night when Laura finished her league bowling games. She frequently saw Pack parked near her apartment building for no reason. Then one day he walked into Laura’s office at a storage facility when she was alone and asked to be let into his storage unit.
Laura was terrified again. Nothing happened but the intimidation was too much. She moved to Casper in 1977 and said, “I never dreamed I would be here one day facing Don Pack.”
“Don Pack, you sexually assaulted and stalked me,” Laura said on the stand, looking straight at her attacker. “I have been angry all these years because you denied any responsibility. I stand here validated after 43 exhausting years of being a survivor, not a victim. In my mind justice would be served if you were sentenced one year for every year it took you to admit your guilt. No sentence can give me back my security. Will I get closure? Perhaps. But I do believe my anger will go away and I will finally live in peace.”
Defense: Pack is a different man
Fleener called two expert witnesses to vouch for the character of his client since his release from incarceration. John Olive, a federal and state sentencing mitigation expert and former probation officer, said Pack personifies the most stable person he’s seen in his career. A man with the same residence, job, and personal relationships for 25 years.
“I learned this man has done a complete 180; has turned his life around,” Olive said. “The change in Donald Pack’s character over the years is significant.”
Olive said Pack’s behavior as a 26-year-old in the mid-70s was due mainly to substance abuse of alcohol and cocaine. He was a thrill-seeker and professed adrenaline junkie seeking high-risk activities like breaking into homes and scaring women. When scaring wasn’t enough to turn him on anymore, it led to sexual assaults, Olive said.
Olive added that Pack’s 15 years in confinement and four years of rehabilitation changed him, as have the years.
Olive said, “He spent a significant amount of time in prison. He didn’t like going to prison. It was an unpleasant experience for him.”
Olive added that any sentence now, even probation, would result in him being a registered sex offender for life and present a serious consequence for Pack’s life. He would likely no longer be able to continue as the manager of Greenway Trailer Park as they were children in the neighborhood.
Dr. Chuck Dennison, a forensic psychologist in Cheyenne and Denver and an expert in psycho-sexual evaluation called Pack as rehabilitated a man as he has ever seen though he did test high for strong narcissistic personality.
“It does appear this is a man who has been rehabilitated,” Dennison said. “Punishment probably won’t bring his behavior down any more. It is already low. Now we are stuck with the question: Does additional punishment change the risk level? I don’t think so because it’s already low, and can’t get lower than low.”
In Weichman’s cross-exam of Dennison, he asked how important it was for Pack to be punished to give satisfaction to the victim’s and to deter potential future rapists.
“It’s interesting that the case for which Pack did his 15 years occurred after these two rapes by a mere months. So this really is Mr. Pack’s past coming back to haunt him now.”
“I think he knew someday he was going to face this,” Dennison answered.
“As for the victim’s here today, you wouldn’t deny them the opportunity to seek their own justice?”
“I’m not the judge. It’s not up to me,” Dennison said.
Pack also had a young lady named Jamie Keefe speak on his behalf. She said since her parents’ divorce in 1995 she came to consider Pack her father.
“Never once in the 23 years I’ve known him has he ever acted inappropriately toward me. And we have been alone many times,” Keefe said. “The man that I know did not, could not, and would not commit those heinous crimes. It’s not the same man.”
The defendant confesses
Pack remained seated when he read a statement he had written.
“There is no doubt that 1974-75 have proven to be the worst years of my life,” he began. He then recalled a moment after his release from the Honor Farm in Riverton where he finished out his sentence that began in Rawlins State Penitentiary. It was in Casper.
“I came face to face with woman who I believed to be a victim of mine,” Pack remembered. “Tears began welling in her eyes and she walked away. I will never forget the hurt in those eyes. The guilt and shame I felt made that the worst day in my life. Groups and therapy had not prepared me for what I saw.”
Pack then extended what he called a “humble and heartfelt apology” to the women in the courtroom. “Through no fault of your own you’ve become a victim of my own hand. I am truly sorry,” he said. “I do understand the damage I’ve done. Conscious can be a powerful enemy. All I can hope for is to own what I’ve done, and hopefully [impart] the knowledge that [the victims] have been a driving force in who I’ve become today.”
Pack admitted he had wanted to reach out to the victims many times over the years but did not for fear that he would only be easing his own conscious and stirring up more harm than good for his victims.
Pack began to tear up as a remembered 1976. “I knew in 1976 I needed to go to prison. I was out of control. Every day I was locked up I thought about the women I had abused. It wasn’t fun. It is still not. But I needed it,” he said.
Fleener closed with his impassioned plea to spare Pack any more hard time. He talked about his client’s willing and “unprecedented” confession, sparing the victims having to testify in a lengthy trial.
He reminded the judge of Pack’s successful rehabilitation. “He’s a 66-year-old man who committed crimes in his twenties. He’s not Don. He’s not the same person. A person has a right to go to prison, be rehabilitated, then live a law-abiding life for decade after decade and put the past behind them,” Fleener said.
Fleener also asked the judge to consider the sentence he served as punishment already for the additional rapes recently discovered.
“One thing I take offense at. The Court says hasn’t been punished for this yet. I disagree. In 1974-75 there was a serial rapist in Wyoming with at least four women who were admittedly victims of Don Pack. I would argue to the court that Don Pack was punished for these crimes; they were taken into account long ago.
“And this was not 15 years in Torrington,” Fleener continued. “This was the old pen that some of us have walked through on school trips. Don Pack has been punished. As we sit here now, everyone wants their pound of flesh. Whatever sentence this court gives is essentially a consecutive sentence [to one given and carried out four decades ago].”
In the end, Tyler ruled swiftly, saying he did not agree with the defense that Pack had already served a sentence for the two counts of felony rape he was now standing convicted of.
Pack arrived to the courtroom as a man looking to finally exercise a demon—an 8,000-pound gorilla of guilt as his lawyer called it. He left in cuffs, facing 8-12 years on each count, to run concurrently. If he is still alive at his release, he will have to register as a sex offender in a national database for the rest of his life.
*The true identity of the victims has been withheld by Buckrail.