Local News

Paddock discipline was sadistic, expert testifies

Posted June 5, 2008 4:39 p.m. EDT
Updated June 5, 2008 10:00 p.m. EDT

— Discipline that a Johnston County woman allegedly imposed on her children amounted to ritualistic and sadistic abuse and torture, a forensic pediatrician testified Thursday.

That included the way Sean Paddock was wrapped tightly in blankets, Dr. Sharon Cooper said during a trial to determine whether the boy's adoptive mother, Lynn Paddock, murdered him.

Paddock, 47, is charged with first-degree murder in the Feb. 26, 2006, death of 4-year-old Sean. Prosecutors have argued that she wrapped him tightly in a blanket to keep him from wandering at night and that he suffocated.

The defense argues that Sean's death was accidental.

Cooper said she interviewed most of Paddock's five surviving children in the months following Sean's death and that their behavior was typical of victims of child abuse.

"Every single one of these children had significant mental health problems and also some physical health problems," Cooper said.

She also testified that it is not unusual for victims of prolonged group torture to withhold details immediately after they are rescued.

"If they've been abused for more than six months, they become what we refer to as 'conditioned,' and they are not forthcoming right away about things that have happened to them because they're still too intimidated, too afraid."

Jurors also heard from Johnston County sheriff's Lt. James Gerrell, who recalled a 2006 interview with Paddock in which she confirmed what witnesses said earlier in the week about her wrapping the boy tightly in blankets on the nights leading up to his death.

"She wrapped him tight on Friday night," Gerrell said. "She actually wrapped him even tighter on Saturday night."

Sean was found dead in a room in the Paddocks' attic on Sunday morning.

Paddock also used a doll, Gerrell said, to show investigators how she had wrapped Sean in the blankets – something he described as "kind of rough" and "tough to take."

Paddock was not under arrest at the time of the interview, he recalled, but as it continued, deputies arrested her in Sean's death.

She cried, Gerrell remembered, and waived her right to remain silent.

During the pediatrician's testimony, Paddock's attorney called twice for a mistrial.

At one point, prosecutors had Cooper explain, using photos, specific marks and characteristics on the surviving Paddock children's bodies that were indicative of abuse.

The defense objected, citing an improper discovery process, but the judge denied the motion because the photos had already been entered into evidence.