Johnston County District Attorney Tom Lock decided not to seek death in the case against Lynn Paddock, whose son Sean died in February, saying the evidence did not show the required aggravating circumstances for capital punishment.
"We certainly do not believe the death was accidental," Lock said. "Although, I expect the defense may claim that, but we do not think the defendant harbored the specific intent to kill her son at the time she committed the acts."
Sean was found unresponsive in his bed on the morning of Feb. 26. Family members told investigators that he was put to bed at about 10 p.m. the night before, and that he was breathing when his mother checked on him at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at Johnston County Memorial Hospital.
Medical examiners later determined that the child had been wrapped so tightly in a blanket that he suffocated.
Paddock's attorney, Michael Reece, claims his client was trying to protect the child to keep him from roaming the house at night and calls Sean's death a tragic accident.
"I think the state has conceded that there is not any good evidence that she was trying to hurt the child," Reece said.
Authorities also said Paddock disciplined her children by hitting them with a PVC pipe. Reece said that the Paddocks believe in corporal punishment, but did not abuse their children.
He also admits that his client had books in her home by author Michael Pearl, who teaches parents strategies for rearing submissive and obedient children. His books say, in part, that a PVC pipe is a good substitution for "the rod" used in the Old Testament.
Reece said he has not spoken to Pearl, but has not ruled out possibly calling him to testify.
Prosecutors said they stand by the first-degree murder charge that Paddock faces and call what happened in the Paddock home severe abuse and torture.
"We do believe the death is one that may be considered torturous under our murder statute," Lock said.
Paddock remains in the Johnston County Jail under a $1 million bond. Her next court appearance is scheduled for June 5. Her husband, Johnny Paddock, does not currently face charges, but Lock said the investigation is ongoing and that he would not rule out the possibility of future charges.
The Paddocks have seven children, six of who are adopted, including Sean's two siblings, whom Lynn Paddock is also accused of abusing.
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