Mom's murder charge upgraded

Date: 2006-03-14

Mom's murder charge upgraded

A prosecutor says Lynn Paddock's treatment of her adopted son amounts to death by torture

Mandy Locke
Staff Writer

Lynn Paddock, the Johnston County woman accused of suffocating her 4-year-old adopted son, now faces a charge of first-degree murder.

A Johnston County grand jury indicted Paddock, 45, on the highest homicide charge Monday. Sean Paddock, a Wake County boy she adopted last summer, lost consciousness and died Feb. 26 after being wrapped so tightly in blankets he suffocated, according to investigators and the state's chief medical examiner. The binding was a form of punishment, deputies said.

District Attorney Tom Lock said his office will make the case to a jury that Paddock tortured the boy to death. Murder by torture is considered first-degree and is punishable by life without parole or possibly execution.

"Based on our legal research, we've found case law to suggest that being wrapped in such a fashion is torture," Lock said.

Paddock already had been charged with second-degree murder in the boy's death. She also had been charged with two counts of felony child abuse. Sean's 8-year-old sister and 9-year-old brother told deputies that Paddock punished them by beating them with plastic plumbing pipe, officials said. The 9-year-old boy was whipped so badly he limped, investigators have said.

Paddock's attorney, Michael Reece, said the evidence against his client does not support a murder charge.

"She didn't mean to hurt the child," Reece said. "She took [Sean] in and cared for him when no one else would. She lost a child and now has everyone rushing to judgment and pointing the finger at her."

Sean's Wake County foster mother warned social workers last January that Paddock inappropriately disciplined the boy, according to reports released after Sean's death. He returned from a pre-adoption visit to the Paddocks' remote farmhouse with bruises on his backside.

Social workers later concluded that he most likely fell off a bunk bed, just as Paddock has assured them.

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