Judge: Abuse evidence OK in murder trial
Posted May 20, 2008 11:19 a.m. EDT
Updated May 20, 2008 8:20 p.m. EDT
Smithfield, N.C. — A judge on Tuesday said evidence of child abuse would be allowed in the murder trial of a Johnston County woman accused of killing her 4-year-old adopted son.
Lynn Paddock is charged with the Feb. 26, 2006, death of her 4-year-old adopted son, Sean. Investigators said Sean suffocated after she wrapped him tightly in a blanket to keep him from wandering around the house at night.
Paddock's attorneys insist the death was accidental, not punishment or discipline.
Meanwhile, the defense attorneys tried to shift the focus to Johnny Paddock, Lynn Paddock's ex-husband, and what he knew about any child abuse that went on in the home.
After hearing two days of testimony from three of Paddock's other adopted children, Superior Court Judge Knox Jenkins agreed with prosecutors that evidence of physical and emotional abuse could be used to establish Lynn Paddock's character during her murder trial.
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. The state paid them $2,200 a month for adopting all the children.
"Lynn seemed to go berserk after Hannah, David and Sean moved in," said Tami Paddock, another adopted child in the family.
Sean's brother, David Paddock, was forced to stay in bed for weeks and to wear diapers, she said. Sean and his sister, Hannah Paddock, had feces shoved in their mouths, and the girl was forced to sit in her own urine for hours, said Tami Paddock and Jessy Paddock, Johnny Paddock's daughter from a previous marriage.
Now 21, Tami Paddock said Lynn Paddock would "swat" all of the children with PVC pipe for looking at her strangely and would lock them in separate rooms whenever she and Johnny Paddock would go out for the evening.
"She didn't say why she was beating you. She just did," Tami Paddock said.
Ray Paddock, now 17, was adopted when he was 8 years old. He said Lynn Paddock would routinely beat him and the other children in the house if she believed they were disobedient.
"She had a problem with people talking if she couldn't control it," he said.
Lynn Paddock would sometimes force children to sit with their legs crossed and facing a wall for hours without talking or moving, Ray Paddock said. She would put duct tape over their mouths to keep them quiet or would duct tape their hands to keep them from biting their fingernails, she said.
The children would have to jump on a small trampoline or run in place for hours, Ray Paddock said, noting his adoptive mother once whacked him behind the knees with a metal fence post because she said he wasn't running fast enough.
Lynn Paddock often used the blanket-wrapping technique that authorities said caused Sean' death, the children testified. Sometimes, it left a child's arm blue because it limited blood circulation, they said.
Jessy Paddock, 20, testified Monday that the abuse of the children escalated when the family moved from Raleigh to a farm near Smithfield in 2001. Lynn Paddock isolated the children by homeschooling them and by attending a Sanford church that discouraged outside influences like watching television, Jessy Paddock said.
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 reports.
The evaluations, which were done at various times from last fall to March, stated that the children suffer from post-traumatic stress. Tami Paddock has tried to commit suicide. Ray Paddock has dreams in which Sean asks him why he didn't help. Hannah Paddock sometimes "plays dead" in hopes of seeing Sean again, according to the reports.
In her statement, Jessy Paddock said her stepmother was obsessed with Internet message boards about people raising perfect children. She also said Lynn Paddock was trying to get pregnant around the time that Sean died.
The older children said they hid the abuse from Johnny Paddock, fearing more beatings, but Sean's brother and sister indicated he was aware of the abuse and ignored it.
Defense attorneys alleged that Johnny Paddock knew more than he let on, noting some of the abuse occurred at night and on weekends, when he was home. They also said he threatened Tami Paddock with a video that depicted her "drunk at a bar" if she said anything wrong in court.
According to Tami Paddock's Feb. 13 evaluation, she believed Johnny Paddock was aware of the abuse.
Johnny Paddock hasn't been charged in Sean's death and said Monday he wasn't responsible for it. He said he is prepared to testify against Lynn Paddock, whom he divorced a year ago while she was in jail.
Lynn Paddock's attorneys have filed a motion to suppress Johnny Paddock's testimony, citing spousal privilege. Prosecutors argued that the law preventing one spouse from testifying against another doesn't apply in a murder case.
The defense also contends they haven't gotten all of the evidence in the case from prosecutors, which could prompt a motion for another delay in the trial.
Sean’s biological aunt, LeeAnne Ford, told WRAL that she is angry with Wake County Social Services over his death.
“Why didn’t they listen to those kids?” Ford said, noting Sean had indicated he was beaten while visiting the Paddock home before the adoption.
Wake and Johnston County social workers said they investigated the allegation, but Lynn Paddock said the child fell out of bed.