In Johnston courtroom, mother watches as children tell of daily beatings
Posted May 28, 2008 10:56 a.m. EDT
Updated May 29, 2008 12:08 a.m. EDT
Smithfield, N.C. — A 9-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy said Wednesday that the Johnston County woman accused of killing their little brother two years ago beat them almost every day.
Lynn Paddock, 47, is charged with murder in 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.
Defense attorneys insist the death was accidental, not punishment or discipline.
Hannah Paddock, Sean's biological sister who was placed with the Paddock family in 2005 along with Sean and their older brother, David Vorenkamp, testified Wednesday to the abuse she suffered at the hands of Lynn Paddock.
Dressed in a denim jacket top and a pink skirt, a bubbly Hannah demonstrated for jurors how she was forced to sit crossed-legged for hours facing a wall. She also said Lynn Paddock once forced her to eat feces after she had defecated in her room – she wasn't allowed to use the bathroom alone.
"She made me put it in a bag before, and then I had to get it out and eat it," she said.
David, who has since been adopted by another family, spoke primarily in monosyllables when discussing his time in the Paddock household. He said he recalled "the spanking rod" most of all
Authorities have said Lynn Paddock beat her stepdaughter and six adopted children with PVC piping.
"She was mean," said David, who wore a dress shirt, tie and slacks.
"I tried not to scream because I didn't want to get spanked again," Hannah said about being hit with the white rod.
In response to defense questions, both children said their adoptive father, Johnny Paddock, was at home when the beatings occurred. Hannah said she wasn't sure if he heard them going on.
Kayla Paddock, 11, another adopted child, testified that Lynn Paddock would tape her mouth shut and tape her hands together. She also forced the children to jump on a trampoline for hours and would beat them if they moved their arms or faced the wrong direction while jumping.
"She wouldn’t let us play or talk to anyone. I just had to sit or jump on the (trampoline) all day," she said.
Kayla also described undergoing the same blanket-wrapping technique that authorities said killed Sean.
"I was afraid (to go to sleep) because every night I’d be wrapped up real tight with a blanket, and it was hard," she said, noting that a bookcase was placed on top of her feet so she couldn't kick herself free.
Superior Court Judge Knox Jenkins ruled Tuesday that the Paddock children couldn't testify via closed-circuit television and had to face Lynn Paddock in the courtroom.
Lynn Paddock took extensive notes and frequently conferred with her attorneys during their testimony. At times, she laid her head down on the defense table or dabbed tears from her eyes.
Earlier in the day, a string of investigators testified about the scene at the Paddock's farmhouse near Smithfield and about the demeanor of Lynn and Johnny Paddock at Johnston Memorial Hospital after Sean's death.
Detective Chris Otto said that, when he arrived at the hospital, he told the Paddocks he was sorry to hear about Sean's death. He said Lynn Paddock's first response was to walk to a nearby phone and ask, "Do I need to call a lawyer?"
Deputy Richard Reliford testified that the Paddocks were agitated at the hospital because they couldn't see Sean. They wanted to hurry home and told Reliford authorities shouldn't go inside their home without a search warrant, he said.
Reliford said he noticed scrapes and bruises on Sean's body and began to question the Paddocks for his official report. Lynn Paddock appeared to be angry and asked why so many questions were being asked, he said.
Meanwhile, back at the Paddock house, Lt. Brian Murphy and Deputy Terry Baker tried to secure the area for a death investigation by herding the other six Paddock children into patrol cars.
Murphy said the children were unusually quiet, noting most children ask questions when law enforcement officers are around. Baker said he noticed the children smelled strongly of body odor and said an older girl frequently whispered to the younger children but that the children remained quiet most of the time.
Paramedics who responded to a 911 call about an unresponsive boy took the stand Tuesday in the first day of testimony in the trial, saying it was clear Sean had been dead for quite a while before they arrived at the house. The boy was bluish in color, was cold to the touch and was stiff, they said.