Boy's aunt: 'I hope his death is not in vain'
The biological family of a 4-year-old boy who was killed by his adoptive mother said they hope some good comes from the woman's murder conviction Thursday.
Jurors deliberated about 2½ hours before finding Lynn Paddock guilty of first-degree murder and felony child abuse in the Feb. 26, 2006, death of Sean Paddock.
Authorities said Sean was bound so tightly in blankets that he suffocated. Defense attorneys had maintained the boy's death was accidental and that Paddock's actions were a form of discipline, not abuse.
Paddock, 47, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on the murder conviction and an additional 73 to 97 months in prison on the felony child abuse conviction.
The verdicts came after weeks of emotional testimony in which the six surviving Paddock children told jurors how Paddock beat them almost daily with flexible plastic rods, wooden spoons and other objects. She also forced them to exercise or sit facing a wall for hours, controlled what they ate and when they went to the bathroom and denied them contact with other children and adults.
"I've shed a lot of tears in the last three weeks," said Dawn Sewell, Sean's biological aunt. "A lot of people say justice was served. I don't know that there ever will be any justice."
Sean and his older brother and sister were placed with Lynn Paddock and her then-husband, Johnny Paddock, in 2005 after their parents and grandparents in Wake County could no longer care for them.
The Paddock children said the abuse intensified after the three youngsters came to live in the family's farmhouse near Smithfield. The blanket-wrapping technique was used several times on Sean and other children to keep them in bed at night, the children testified.
Sewell said that, before the trial, she believed the boy's death was an accident. The testimony of the children changed her mind.
"You can't do what she did and say that it was an accident," she said.
Sewell still wonders how Johnny Paddock could have been in the house and not known about the abuse.
Johnny Paddock, who divorced his wife last year while she was in jail awaiting trial, hasn't been charged in the case and has maintained his innocence.
Assistant Johnston County District Attorney Paul Jackson said authorities never had enough evidence to charge him with a crime because the children said he wasn't around the house to witness the beatings and that they lied to cover it up because they were afraid of more punishment from Lynn Paddock.
The state Division of Social Services issued its findings into Sean's death Thursday afternoon after the verdicts were returned. In the 10-page report, members of a state child fatality review team said responsibilities need to be delineated more precisely when an adoption involves more than one county.
Sewell said she hopes Sean's death with send a message to social workers.
"The one thing I do hope is that his death is not in vain and that, if nothing else comes out of this, that the next time a child tells someone that they're being abused – whether it's their real family, their adoptive family, their foster family – that somebody will listen," she said.
"(I hope) social services will do a better job of investigating families and making sure that they're placing children with people that deserve them and will treat them the way children deserve to be treated."