Dead boy's mother accused before

Date: 2006-02-28

Dead boy's mother accused before

Social workers investigated Lynn Paddock months before Sean Ford's adoption

Mandy Locke
Staff Writer

SMITHFIELD -- Seven months before Lynn Marie Paddock adopted the 4-year-old boy she's charged with killing, Johnston County social workers went to her remote farmhouse to investigate allegations of child abuse, officials said Monday.

And weeks before she adopted Sean Ford from a Wake County foster home, his uncle told Wake Child Protective Services that the boy returned from a visit to Paddock's farmhouse with welts on his backside and legs, the uncle, Robert Ford Jr., said.

The adoption of Sean and his older brother and sister went through anyway.

"They begged me to keep them the day they were adopted," said Ford, who first cared for the children after they were taken from his brother. "All I could do was hold them and cry."

Ford said that Wake County Child Protective Services took Sean and his siblings in 2004 after the children's father went to prison for abusing the girl. The children's mother lost custody after she refused to leave their father, Ford and Ford's father said.

The children lived with Ford seven months before he gave them to the foster home while he tried to get his finances in order, he said Monday.

On July 22, the Johnston County Superior Court clerk's office approved Lynn and Johnny Paddock's request to adopt the children from the foster home.

On Sunday, Lynn Paddock, 45, found Sean lifeless in his bed. Prosecutors charged her with second-degree murder and also with abusing two of her other children. Johnston County sheriff's deputies say she had been hitting her adopted children with plastic plumbing pipes.

Authorities took four children from the Paddocks' house. The oldest two, one from Mr. Paddock's previous marriage, stayed with their father.

One child was injured so badly he was limping, Elisabeth Dresel, Johnston County assistant district attorney, said Monday. The children told deputies that their mother stashed PVC pipes throughout the home and often threatened them with the lengths, Sheriff Steve Bizzell said.

Johnston County Social Services workers went to the Paddocks' farmhouse on Grabtown Road on the outskirts of Smithfield in January 2005 to investigate child abuse allegations, said Andy Holland, the agency's attorney. He said the agency would release a summary of its dealings with the family this week.

On Monday morning, Mrs. Paddock stumbled into a crowded Johnston County Courthouse with leg shackles and a long brown braid skimming her back. She nodded answers to the judge's questions and didn't make eye contact with her husband. A judge set bail at $1 million and returned her to jail.

"She's devastated, too. This is a child she loved and adopted," said Michael Reece, a Smithfield lawyer appointed to represent her. "I don't think there's any evidence that she intentionally tried to kill the child."

The state medical examiner does not know exactly how Sean died. Bruises covered his skin when paramedics took his rigid body to Johnston Memorial Hospital on Sunday morning, Bizzell said.

No charges had been filed late Monday against Mr. Paddock. Bizzell said the investigation is continuing.

It took six weeks for the Paddocks to adopt Sean and his 8-year-old sister and 9-year-old brother last summer.

The children had been staying with Ford and his wife and their three children, then with a foster family while Ford and his wife saved for an adoption, Ford said.

Then, social workers told the Fords that a Johnston County couple wanted the children. "It all happened so quickly," Ford said.

Wake County Health and Human Services officials would not comment on the case Monday. They will release a summary of their involvement later this week, spokeswoman Jane Martin said.

Sandy Cook, executive director of the Greensboro-based Children's Home Society of North Carolina, said Monday that the private nonprofit agency helped the Paddocks adopt Sean. The agency often links children in government foster care with prospective parents.

Johnny Paddock, who runs a carpet-cleaning business, and Lynn Paddock, a homemaker, were rearing Mr. Paddock's daughter from a previous marriage. In 1996, the Paddocks adopted a girl, now 19; a few years later, they adopted a boy, now 15. Sheriff's deputies say they have one other adopted child.

Mrs. Paddock home-schooled the children. But this school year, she filed for permission to home-school only the 15-year-old and 19-year-old, a state Department of Public Instruction official said.

At the Paddocks' 12-acre farm, pens of goats clutter the sandy yard. Monday morning, dogs bellowed from the blue house and scratched at the door.

Edward Murphy, a neighbor, said the Paddocks kept to themselves and seemed to stay busy with their church. He never saw the girls without ankle-length skirts or dresses.

Sean's biological family learned of his death on television Sunday night. The family lost touch with the children after the adoption; state law prevented them from knowing the adoptive parents.

Ford said he packed a family scrapbook among the children's belongings.

Now, the family hopes they'll be allowed to bury Sean. They'll make sure that Paddock, his adopted name, is nowhere on the tombstone.

(Staff writer Jennifer Brevorka and news researchers Brooke Cain, Denise Jones and Lamara Williams-Hackett contributed to this report.)

Staff writer Mandy Locke can be reached at 829-8927 or mandy.locke@newsobserver.com.
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