Judge hears of harsh discipline

Date: 2008-05-20

Judge hears of harsh discipline

Stepdaughter tells of abuse by woman facing murder charge

Mandy Locke
Staff Writer

SMITHFIELD - Jessy Paddock knew better than to cry.

The slightest whimper would lead her stepmother, Lynn Paddock, to unleash faster and more furious lashings.

Jessy Paddock, 20, turned against Lynn Paddock on Monday, telling a judge about her child-rearing methods.

"She'd just keep hitting you until you quit crying," Jessy said. "You learned to just stand there and take it."

Lynn Paddock, 47, is on trial for first-degree murder. She's accused of killing her 4-year-old, Sean. Investigators say she wrapped him in blankets so tightly he suffocated. She is also charged with felony child abuse for the bruises that marred the backsides of Sean and two older biological siblings.

A jury may never hear the horrors Jessy Paddock described Monday. Superior Court Judge Knox Jenkins is screening the testimony of Jessy and two children adopted by the Paddocks to determine whether it will be allowed at Lynn Paddock's trial. A defendant's past bad behavior is not typically presented at trial unless a judge permits it.

For more than two hours, Jessy Paddock described an angry mother who grew more and more out of control as her family welcomed more adopted children into its home.

Beatings weren't new, but the instruments intensified. Pingpong paddles became thick wooden spoons. When those broke, Jessy Paddock said, her stepmother cut branches, trimming them with a knife.

By the time the Paddocks settled into a farmhouse out of sight of neighbors in 2001, Lynn Paddock had found a new instrument: plumbing supply line -- thick plastic piping that would bend when she popped it against the children's bare legs and bottoms. The lashings came 10, 15, even 30 at a time. Lynn Paddock borrowed the technique from Michael Pearl, an evangelical minister from Tennessee who writes books advising parents how to rear godly, obedient children.

As she spoke Monday, Jessy Paddock never looked at Lynn Paddock, who reared her since age 2. Lynn Paddock sat beside her attorneys, her chin cupped in her hands as she stared at the young woman. Jessy Paddock fixed her eyes on her father, Johnny Paddock, slumped in the front row, nodding encouragingly at his daughter every now and again.

Johnny Paddock has turned against his wife, too. He divorced her last year and has promised to testify against her for the state.

On Monday, Johnny Paddock said he knew nothing of the horrors taking place in his home while he worked long hours. He said he's eager to see his former wife brought to justice for Sean's death. And he's most eager to move beyond this tragedy.

"We've all been through a lot. We've tried to move on," Johnny Paddock said.

Aside from the whippings, Jessy Paddock said, her stepmother turned to other tactics to rein in her growing brood. They were ordered to face a bare wall and sit cross-legged for hours on end. Those who fidgeted had to keep their hand on their head. If they fumbled there, Jessy Paddock said, their mother would duct-tape their hands together. Those who slumped would earn a whack on the back of the head with the plastic plumbing line.

"The more freedom she took from the children, the more angry and on edge she got," Jessy Paddock said.

The arrival of Sean and his two biological siblings in 2005 agitated an already tense situation. All together, Children's Home Society, a private adoption agency contracted by the state to find homes for foster children, placed six troubled children with the Paddocks.

Jessy Paddock said that when Hannah, Sean's older sister, wouldn't go to the bathroom when Lynn Paddock directed, she would make the girl drink several quarts of water. When Hannah urinated in her clothes, Lynn Paddock would catch the drippings in a pan and order the child to sit in it for hours.

When Sean soiled his pants, Lynn Paddock forced him to eat it. And when David, Sean's older brother, played with his food at the table, Lynn Paddock took his plate away; Jessy Paddock said David once lost his meal privileges for four days straight.

To keep Sean and another daughter, Kayla, from wandering at night, Lynn Paddock wrapped them in blankets and cordoned their bound bodies between beds and shelves of books. Sometimes, duct tape would cover their mouths.

She used the tape other times, too. As Hannah showered one day, Jessy Paddock told the judge, Lynn Paddock taped the girl's mouth then sprayed her with a shower nozzle.

Jessy Paddock looked on, watching the 7-year-old girl's eyes widen and her neck vessels pulsate. Finally, Lynn Paddock relented, pulling back the tape and turning to Jessy Paddock with a laugh and the question: "I wonder how I'd have explained that if the ambulance got here and she'd had died."

Jessy Paddock held her voice steady and calm as she told the story. She didn't shed a tear, either.

mandy.locke@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-8927
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