SMITHFIELD - Lynn Paddock, on trial in the death of her 4-year-old son, told jurors today that her mother beat her and her siblings with a PVC pipe when she was a child.
"One time she beat my brother so bad he was black and blue," Paddock said, panting through sobs. "She sent him to school like that."
She said that her mother drank heavily and popped prescription pills. When she was a young teenager, Paddock said, she and her stepsiblings ran away from home. Social services them moved them into a foster home in Virginia.
Some of the children from that home were here in court to support Paddock as she testified in the first-degree murder trial. Paddock spoke through tears at several points in her testimony today. She cried as she admitted to jurors that she had made another son, David, eat his own vomit on his 9th birthday.
She said she did it because she thought he had made himself throw up.
"I'm sorry, I'm so ashamed," Paddock said through tears.
Paddock's son Sean — the youngest of six adopted children — died in February 2006 when he was wrapped so tightly in blankets that he couldn't breathe. She has said that she wrapped him to keep him from wandering in the family's farmhouse at night.
Earlier today, Paddock told jurors that she turned to the teachings of Tennessee evangelist Michael Pearl when timeout wasn't working as discipline for her children.
Pearl, who advocated hitting children with plastic plumbing supply line, publishes books advising parents how to raise submissive, godly children.
"We liked Michael Pearl's because it was quick, and didn't demean the child," Paddock told jurors. "It could also be done more consistently. He talked about giving a swat and moving on."
Paddock testified that she became the sole disciplinarian in the household after her husband, Johnny, became angry with one of the children after spanking him.
"He was taking it out on the child verbally. He just felt like he couldn't continue," she said.
She and Johnny, who started adopting children in 1996, wanted to adopt a sibling group, she testified. And in October 2004, Deborah Artis, a social worker from Children's Home Society, phoned to tell the Paddocks about Sean and his older brother and sister, David and Hannah.
Paddock said the couple drove to Raleigh to meet with social workers at Wake County Human Services, who had taken the children into foster care.
They sat around a big round table and talked about the children. The social worker told the Paddocks that David had a health condition that made it difficult for him to control his bowels. Paddock told jurors that she had assured social workers they could handle it.
"We kind of felt like at one point we were being drilled," Paddock testified. "We would have done anything they asked to adopt."
Paddock told jurors about the problems of the foster children they had adopted. She said Tami lied, Ray was angry, Kayla had just been released from Holly Hill mental hospital, and David and Hannah tore library books.
"Sometimes we wouldn't know some stuff when they came ... their behaviors," Paddock said.
Sean, 3 years old when he arrived at the home in 2005, was "just your regular rough-and-tumble little boy," she said.
Paddock said she had not been able to have children of her own. She and Johnny got the inspiration to adopt from Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy's restaurants and an adoptee, she said.
"At that point, I thought that was my calling," Paddock said of adopting older children.
Paddock spoke softly and sobbed when she recalled meeting her first adoptive child, Tami. She said Tami had been shuffled from home to home, and she and Johnny swore they would never turn back a child they had taken into their home.
A group of Paddock's relatives filled a bench in the courtroom today to show support for her as she testified.
Earlier today, Artis, the social worker who helped the Paddocks adopt, also wept on the witness stand when a prosecutor asked her to inspect photos of the their battered bodies.
Artis said she would have done things differently if she had known what was going on in the Paddock home. She said she now feels deceived by Lynn Paddock.
"Did you feel like this defendant was honest with you when you came to visit her?" prosecutor Paul Jackson asked.
"No," Artis said through tears.
Artis said she thought the Paddocks were disciplining the children through "timeout" or taking away treats. She never inspected their bodies.
A prosecutor asked Artis how much the Paddocks earned for rearing the children. The Paddocks earned more than $2,000 a month for taking care of their adoptive children.