Judge allows abuse testimony

Date: 2008-05-21

Judge allows abuse testimony

Murder trial jury can hear children's grim tales of mother's discipline

Mandy Locke

, Staff Writer

SMITHFIELD - A judge will allow a jury to hear the dark secrets of abuse and humiliation that Lynn Paddock's grown children continued to describe Tuesday, often in whispers as they stared down at their hands.

Prosecutor Paul Jackson said he plans to use the tales of Paddock's discipline to help secure a first-degree murder conviction for the death of her 4-year-old, Sean. Jackson said the abuse amounted to torture.

In the courtroom Tuesday, two more of Paddock's children told stories of flying hammers, weeks of mandated bed rest, orders to eat vomit and mouths taped shut to keep them from talking to each other. They said Paddock bound Sean and Kayla, another young child, in blankets and forced them to pass the night cordoned off between beds and bookshelves. These wrappings robbed Sean of air and led to his death in 2006, authorities say.

The children testified that bruises and scratches and broken blood vessels were common and that Paddock's words broke their hearts.

"She'd just curse at us to make us feel we weren't worth anything," said Ray Paddock, whom Lynn Paddock and her husband, Johnny, adopted in 1998. "She very rarely told us she loved us. She told us nobody would ever take us if we left there."

Of the Paddocks' seven children, six were adopted, and the state paid the family to rear them.

Superior Court Judge Knox Jenkins decided Tuesday that a jury ought to hear about the conditions the children said they endured. Paddock could spend the rest of her life in prison if a jury decides she murdered Sean.

To secure a first-degree murder conviction, a jury must typically find that the defendant contemplated the killing in advance. Or, in the case prosecutors are mounting against Paddock, a jury must find that Sean died by torture, rendered through a systematic pattern of abuse over time.

Paddock's oldest children spoke this week from the safety of the jury box. For weeks after Sean's death, the children had fibbed to detectives and social workers who prodded them about their mother's discipline. Then, slowly, they said, their fear faded.

"I finally felt comfortable telling the truth when I knew [Paddock] was in jail and wouldn't be able to come out and hurt us," said Ray Paddock, 17. He said that he first realized "that I could trust people and they actually cared" when he shared his story with a social worker after Sean died.

On Tuesday, Paddock sat not 15 feet away from the children, slumped in her seat, dabbing her eyes now and again. Her attorneys tried to direct some of the blame to her husband of 16 years.

Tami Paddock, 21, the oldest of the adopted children, said their father knew of some of Lynn's discipline techniques. Tami said he was asleep upstairs in the house one Sunday morning when Lynn Paddock whacked Sean's bare body with a plastic plumbing line 70 or 80 times. Sean's disobedience: He'd asked his adoptive father to turn on the air conditioner as the family drove to church, Tami testified.

Johnny Paddock has never been charged in Sean's death or in the abuse of his other adopted children. He has since divorced her and is eager to see her brought to trial. He, too, could be called to the stand and asked what he knew.

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