Paddock case to go to jury

Date: 2008-06-11

Paddock case to go to jury

Mandy Locke, Staff Writer

SMITHFIELD - Lynn Paddock's mother showed up at her remote farmhouse in the fall of 2005.

The two hadn't spoken in more than 30 years, Paddock's siblings said Tuesday. Paddock hadn't seen her mother since a social worker rescued her from the mother's home as a teenager.

Paddock's siblings say she turned her estranged mother away that day in 2005, unwilling to reconnect with a woman her siblings say beat and starved them and shut them out of the house in the winter's cold. Her siblings swear something snapped in Paddock that day.

Over the next few months, Paddock has testified, she began whipping her children too hard. Then, on a windy February night in 2006, Paddock wrapped her 4-year-old son Sean so tightly in blankets that he suffocated.

"I think it had set something off in her, the physical shock of seeing her," Paddock's half-brother, Fred Neyhart, said of the unexpected visit of Paddock's mother.

A jury will begin deciding Paddock's fate today. If jurors think Sean's death amounted to first-degree murder by torture, Paddock will spend the rest of her life in prison. A jury could let her go or lean toward a less serious homicide charge, such as involuntary manslaughter. Paddock testified Monday that she never meant to kill Sean and that the death haunts her.

Paddock's six other children -- ages 9 through 21 -- told jurors this month that their mother beat them with plastic plumbing supply line, taped their mouths shut and forced them to eat feces and vomit. Over a decade, Paddock and her husband, Johnny, adopted six troubled foster children to join Johnny's daughter from a previous marriage.

Children's Home Society, a private adoption agency contracted by the state to find homes for foster children, delivered the final foster children, Sean and his two siblings, in 2005.

"She was overwhelmed," Paddock's stepsister, Tanya Luck, said Tuesday. "She reverted back to the only thing she knew: her own mother."

Paddock had shut her mother out of her life as a teenager, after her second attempt to run away eventually landed her in a loving foster home, her siblings said outside court Tuesday. Since then, the mere mention of her mother's name forced Paddock to quiver in fear or break out in a rash, Luck said.

Paddock's mother was never criminally charged with abuse, her siblings said. Fairfax County, Va., social workers, however, took custody of most of her children in the 1970s. One of the social workers, Jean Cothran, testified at Paddock's trial that Paddock's mother even terrified her.

On Monday and Tuesday, Paddock, her siblings and Cothran described the mother as a tyrant who told her children they were worthless, beat them with pipes and brooms, and denied meals. Cothran told jurors that the dire abuse has long haunted her and other social workers who were involved in the case.

About a decade ago, Paddock's siblings drifted apart from her. They say she followed the advice of a counselor in her church and intentionally distanced herself. The counselor, her siblings said, urged her to shelve her old life and focus on her new family, growing every few years with additional adopted children.

Luck, the stepsister, and Neyhart, the half-brother, saw Paddock this week for the first time in more than 30 years. They came to testify on her behalf and peel back their own scars to help show what Paddock endured as a child.

Luck and Neyhart say they, too, have struggled to get beyond their tumultuous childhoods. They eventually found the strength, they said, to escape the cycle of child abuse. Paddock, they say, was always a follower, prey to the will of the strongest around her.

They say they don't know how she'll survive prison, if the jury decides that's where she will live out her days.

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

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