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Opposing lawyers portray adoptive mother as ruthless, caring

Posted May 23, 2008

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— Jurors will have to decide whether a Johnston County woman accused of killing her adopted son two years ago was an abusive woman who got out of control, as prosecutors argue, or a caring mother trying to do what she thought was best for her children, as her attorneys say.

Lynn Paddock is charged with the Feb. 26, 2006, death of 4-year-old Sean Paddock. Investigators said Sean suffocated after she wrapped him tightly in a blanket to keep him from wandering around the house at night.

The prosecution and the defense made opening statements Friday afternoon. Testimony in the murder trial is expected to begin Tuesday.

"This case is about child abuse. Because of escalating abuse, a 4-year-old little boy, Sean, never made it to 5," Assistant Johnston County District Attorney Paul Jackson told jurors in his opening statement. "This case is also about deception. It took the death of a 4-year-old boy to expose the truth."

Johnny and Lynn Paddock, two recovering alcoholics, adopted six children from the mid-1990s through 2005, when foster care officials placed Sean and his biological brother and sister with the family.

Jackson said the couple hid the abuse and deceived the Department of Social Services so they could continue adopting children – and receiving a monthly subsidy for each child – but the abuse grew with the family size.

Lynn Paddock's attorneys insist the death was accidental, not punishment or discipline.

"The evidence will not show that Lynn Paddock used a deadly weapon to intentionally inflict injury on this child," defense attorney Jack O'Hale said in his opening statement.

O'Hale told jurors the case is about a family that followed religious teachings and the adage "spare the rod, spoil the child." Johnston County officials investigated the Paddock home and found it a safe place for six adoptive children with special needs, he said.

"(She) did the very best that she could, in accordance with her beliefs, to take care ... of these seven children," he said.

O'Hale also described Lynn Paddock as a woman who grew up with a volatile home life and ended up in foster care herself.

"Lynn didn't have a normal childhood," he said.

Three of the older adopted children testified in a pre-trial hearing this week that Lynn Paddock habitually abused them for years. She beat them, had them run in place or jump on a trampoline for hours, forced them to sit in their urine and at least twice shoved feces in the mouths of younger children, they testified.

Lynn Paddock also used the blanket-wrapping technique that authorities said killed Sean on other children, leaving their arms numb and blue from limited blood circulation, the adoptive children testified.

When the children were removed from the family's custody after Sean's death, they were malnourished, showed bruises and marks consistent with chronic beatings and were educationally deprived, according to state evaluations. The reports also stated that the children suffered from post-traumatic stress.

Superior Court Judge Knox Jenkins said jurors would be allowed to hear evidence of ongoing abuse in the household.

Johnny Paddock has maintained he wasn't aware of the abuse. He divorced Lynn Paddock last year while she was in jail awaiting trial, and he said this week that he was prepared to testify against her.

Defense attorneys have alleged Johnny Paddock knew more about of the abuse that he let on, saying he threatened one of his adopted daughters if she said anything "wrong" while on the witness stand. Some of the younger children also said Johnny Paddock was aware of the abuse but ignored it.


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  • Pulling for the Tarheels May 23, 2008

    Folks, I have been so disappointed as I know of a family that did not secure their home as they should, which allowed the child to get badly hurt and spent several days hospitalized. Because I know of this family, I spoke to Social Services about my concerns, gave them contact names and telephone numbers for them to verify everything I had said. They ASSURED me that they would be contacting and talking with the childs father - it's been more than a month, and the child's Dad has received no telephone call. When the police are at the location and the child is taken via rescue squad to the hospital, what does it take to get this child (and sibling) protected - does it take one of the children to be killed before someone will protect them? It is so obvious that these children need help/protection.

  • sqstroublemaker May 23, 2008

    Its about time people are getting the big picture here. Our tax dollars are paying for CPS, the adoption agencies and the adoption stiples that are being paid to these kinds of monsters after CPS places these kids in the monster's care.

    I grew up in the foster care system. Out of 13 foster homes, I can honestly say I felt like a member of the family in only one of these homes. The rest made sure you knew you were not a member and most let you know that they got a check each month to house you.

    There are decent foster parents and adoptive parents out there, but wouldn't it make more sense to give those funds to the birth families so the removal of kids from their families for neglect or messy houses or housing stability could be obtained by the birth families? Abuse is not ok, but can be understood in some cases, not excusable, but understandable. Each of us is frustrated when money is tight or there is no more money available but bills that still need to be paid.

    This system needs

  • steelslinger512 May 23, 2008

    Heatherbrook your right.. If she is found guilty... We the people would love to wrap her in a blanket and let her feel a piece of PVC pipe.. I pray for the children.. Those kids had it rough..

  • blondton13 May 23, 2008

    IMO, this woman is a sick, sick individual that deserves to spend the rest of her life rotting in prison.

  • J3ssie231 May 23, 2008

    I'm almost more dissapointed with the adoption system in this country. I mean really, its difficult for well educated, financially well off, single people to adopt kids, but these creeps can adopt lots of kids with ease? Did no one talk to the children she had before letting her adopt more?
    It would only take a visit or 2 to figure out this was happening.
    And obviously both of these losers deserve plenty of jailtime.

  • NCMOMof3 May 23, 2008

    I can't believe that abuse of this magnitude can go on inside of a house for that length of time and the spouse not be aware, to some degree. No parent is perfect and parents should present a united front but one parent knows when the other is reaching the end of their rope. There is no excuse for some of the methods the other children are saying she used as "discipline". Spare the rod, I was raised that way and my Granny was the most gentle of souls and at 5 foot nothing, we grew up with much respect for her and we collected our own "rods". She never did those things. Those things are not discipline, they are abuse.

  • hayco May 23, 2008

    Sickening that this went on for years,and yet in Texas, they removed every kid in town because of one anonymous phone call. Definitely needs to be some type of balance when it comes to intervening in these cases. No one wants the authorities crashing in our doors, questioning our parenting skills whenever we take away the cell phone or allowance. Yet so many of these "home schooled" kids drop off of the radar screen with no contact with anyone but the parents. Nothing against home schooling in general, but how could these kids be allowed to just "disappear", being that they were adopted, and having a check sent to their home each month. Some type of follow-up would have been appropriate.

  • Heatherbrook May 23, 2008

    Poor little children. I suggest the courts allow the general public to punish her. Bet there won't be many wet noodle licks.

  • freddie cadetti 72 May 23, 2008

    I knew these two. Never heard about the abuse, but certainly can see her doing it, and him knowing about it and not saying anything. Not that he condoned it, but was too preoccupied with work and the old adage of "let the mother discipline the children.

  • tiblet May 23, 2008

    maybe I have a sick mind...but it seems to me like she enjoyed this...torturing these children. And the extremely tragic thing is that the State gave them to her to torture for her own personal satisfaction.

    This is not God's plan for the world and I have to believe He is very disappointed in all of us for creating a society that allows this to occur. If you think about it...it's our tax dollars that funds CPS and every aspect of the system. If it's not working...it's our job to fix it.