Local News

Mother: 'I'd rather be dead than have him dead'

Posted May 30, 2008 11:10 a.m. EDT
Updated May 30, 2008 9:39 p.m. EDT

— A Johnston County woman accused of killing her 4-year-old adopted son told one of her adopted daughters she felt trapped and frustrated by her large family.

Lynn Paddock, 47, is charged with murder in the Feb. 26, 2006, death of Sean Paddock. 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.

In a telephone conversation played in court Friday afternoon without the jury present, Lynn Paddock told 21-year-old Tami Paddock that she was sorry Sean died.

“I’d rather be dead then have him dead," Lynn Paddock said in the February phone call, which was recorded in the Johnston County Jail.

"So why is he dead in the first place?” Tami Paddock asked.

Earlier in the conversation, Tami Paddock had asked how her adoptive mother felt at the time of Sean's death.

"Trapped, frustrated, confused, severely overtired," Lynn Paddock responded.

Lynn Paddock wiped away tears in the courtroom as she listened to Tami Paddock say on the recording that the two-year anniversary of Sean's death was coming up.

"He could have been 5 years old, 6 years old now. He had a life," Tami Paddock said.

Superior Court Judge Knox Jenkins refused to allow the jury to hear the taped conversation.

Tami Paddock, the oldest of six children adopted by Lynn Paddock and her then-husband, Johnny Paddock,  testified earlier Friday that Lynn Paddock started beating the children when the family lived in Raleigh. The beatings got worse after the family moved to a farmhouse near Smithfield in 2001, she said, noting Lynn Paddock used switches, wooden spoons and PVC pipe to deliver the beatings.

Lynn Paddock home-schooled the children for a time, but that stopped after the family moved, Tami Paddock said.

Sean and his biological brother and sister were placed with the Paddock family 2005, and the abuse escalated rapidly after that, she said.

"I guess you can say she kind of went berserk," she said. "It was almost like she couldn’t stand children, which always kind of bothered me because I don’t why you’re going to adopt kids."

Tami Paddock said crying only made the beatings worse. Watching her beat the younger children was worse than her own abuse, she said, but she was powerless to stop it.

"I knew if I tried to help, it would just make either them get beat longer or make matters worse," she said.

Jessy Paddock, 20, Johnny Paddock's daughter from an earlier marriage, testified that Lynn Paddock exercised absolute control over the children.

"She had incredible control over me in all areas of my life, and I just didn't question what she told me to do," Jessy Paddock said.

Ray Paddock, 17, another of the adopted children, testified Thursday that the children lived in such fear of Lynn Paddock that they hid the abuse from Johnny Paddock and others. The children lied to social workers who visited the home, saying they were well treated, and they didn't talk with authorities investigating Sean's death.

When Sean's biological brother cried at the news the boy had died, Lynn Paddock hit him, Tami Paddock told jurors.

"She just had this really angry look on her face, and David started crying and she just reached out and smacked him," she said.

Both Tami and Jessy Paddock have been granted immunity from prosecution, since they were adults in the home at the time of Sean's death and during part of the abuse the children have described.