Prosecutor: Adoptive mother guilty of 'soul murder'
Posted June 11, 2008 10:57 a.m. EDT
Updated June 11, 2008 9:01 p.m. EDT
Smithfield, N.C. — A Johnston County woman accused of killing her 4-year-old adopted son had an obsessive need for control and tortured her children through almost daily abuse, prosecutors said Wednesday as her trial neared its end.
Lynn Paddock, 47, is charged with murder in the Feb. 26, 2006, death of Sean Paddock. Authorities said Sean was bound so tightly in blankets that he suffocated.
Jurors began deliberating Paddock's fate at about 3:30 p.m. and were dismissed about 90 minutes later. They were expected to resume deliberations Thursday morning.
Defense attorneys maintain that Sean's death was accidental and that Paddock's actions were a form of discipline, not abuse.
"This wasn't what the state portrays it to be," defense attorney Jack O'Hale said in his closing argument Wednesday morning. "Yes, there was inappropriate spanking, but it wasn't the torture, it wasn't the conduct that you've heard.
"There has to be an intent to do a bad thing that makes it a crime," O'Hale said.
Assistant Johnston County District Attorney Paul Jackson said jurors need to weigh Paddock's general intent. She might not have intended for Sean to die, but she intended to inflict the force of binding him in the blanket, which makes her guilty, he said.
"She intended to tuck him. She intended to bind him. She intended to stitch him up so tightly that he couldn't move," Jackson said. "That's intentional assault – period."
Assistant Johnston County District Attorney Kelly Sandling also said Paddock's actions mean the boy's death was no accident.
"You don't do something five nights in a row and then call it an accident," Sandling said in her closing argument. "Whether or not she intended for Sean to die doesn't matter ... for she intended to bind that little boy."
Paddock wrapped Sean in a blanket several times in the weeks before his death, according to testimony in the two-week trial. She wanted to keep him from getting out of bed at night to play, and she sometimes would place furniture on top of the blankets to keep him from thrashing about, witnesses testified.
The six surviving Paddock children testified that she also beat them daily, forced them to exercise or sit staring at a wall for hours, controlled what they ate and when they went to the bathroom and denied them contact with other children or people outside the home.
Jackson showed jurors the "whipping stick" Paddock used on the children, as well as photos of bruises on their bodies and said that she beat the children into submission over time.
"This was soul murder," Jackson said.
A tearful Paddock denied some of the claims of abuse and told jurors the beatings were delivered only to keep the children in line because they suffered from emotional problems and were hard to discipline.
She also described her own childhood, in which she was raised by an abusive mother and wound up in foster care.
Her siblings and a psychologist who examined her testified Tuesday that they believe she never meant to harm Sean or the other children, citing her meek nature.
Sandling told jurors not to buy Paddock's story.
"Don't let her control you," she said. "Find her guilty of first-degree murder and felonious child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury."