Paddock tells of own pain

Date: 2008-06-10

Paddock tells of own pain

Johnston mom denies intent to kill adopted boy

Mandy Locke, Staff Writer

SMITHFIELD - Lynn Paddock testified Monday that she knew the pain of a beating with a PVC pipe. That she felt the shame of skin that turned blue after being whipped. That she understood the hunger from meals denied.

She felt it all at the hand of her own mother, she said.

Paddock, the Johnston County mother accused of killing her adopted son Sean and abusing her other children, took the stand to defend herself against a first-degree murder charge. Paddock admitted she wrapped Sean in blankets and didn't dispute a pathologist's determination that the binding suffocated him. She swore she never meant to do it.

Paddock took jurors into another troubled home, decades past, hundreds of miles away.

"She had found a heavy PVC pipe," Paddock testified, referring to her mother, who she said abused her as a child. "That's what she used to discipline us."

Through sobs, Paddock described how her mother used a metal pipe to try to keep her children in line. Paddock's stepsister backed her up later in the day, taking the stand to paint a picture of a cruel, controlling mother who locked them in bedrooms, beat them black and blue and took away their food to teach lessons.

It was eerily familiar testimony. Over the past two weeks, Paddock's children climbed onto the same witness stand and told stories about being locked in their rooms and enduring painful lashings with plastic plumbing supply line. Jurors examined pictures of the Paddock children's bodies: black and blue and brown in orderly lines to match Paddock's "whipping stick."

Just as Paddock's children testified that their father, Johnny, didn't stop the abuse, Lynn Paddock and her stepsister, Tanya Luck, told of a mysterious, uninvolved father figure.

"Dad never hit us," Luck testified. "But the thing he did do was nothing. He watched that go on all day, every day, and never stopped it."

Paddock and Luck finally ran away from home. The women, now 47, spent the remainder of their teenage years with a foster family in Virginia, they testified.

Paddock sobbed for much of her three hours of testimony. She spoke softly and timidly about the mother she became. She acknowledged much of what her children blamed her for in the past few weeks.

One by one, a prosecutor showed Paddock pictures of her children. With simple "yes sirs," she took blame for the bruises coloring their bare backs, legs and arms. Paddock bowed her head when her attorney asked her whether she forced her adopted son David to eat his vomit on his ninth birthday.

"I'm sorry. I'm very ashamed," she said, acknowledging that she did. She said she thought he had made himself throw up.

Coaching kids to lie

During cross-examination, Paddock admitted that she lied to social workers about using corporal punishment. She coached the children to fib as well, she said.

Paddock denied much, too. She said she never forced her children to sit cross-legged for hours on end, facing a wall. She said she didn't beat the children with a wooden spoon, a metal stake or hammer. She denied kicking any of them.

"I would never do that," she said firmly.

Paddock told jurors she had tried to have children of her own. Pregnancy never took, she said. So, several years into her marriage with Johnny, the two decided to adopt to give Jessy, Johnny's daughter from a previous marriage, a playmate.

A placemat at a Wendy's fast-food restaurant inspired the Paddocks, Lynn testified, to adopt older children. Wendy's founder, Dave Thomas, was an adopted father and a champion of patchwork families.

"At that point, I thought that was my calling," Paddock said of adopting older children. Over a decade, the Paddocks welcomed more and more foster children into their home. Tami came in 1996; Ray followed in 1998. Paddock described the children as troubled and her commitment to keeping them unwavering.

Paddock told jurors that she and Johnny vowed to never return the children to foster care no matter how damaged they proved to be.

"We would take whatever God brought us. Whatever they needed, we'd give it to them," she testified.

Taking a final group of foster children -- Sean, Hannah and David -- in 2005 brought a new, sometimes overwhelming challenge, Paddock testified. On Monday, she discussed David and Hannah's troubles, including bathroom accidents and tearing the pages of library books.

But Sean, she said, was just a typical toddler, busy and playful. The week he died, Paddock said, she took to wrapping him in blankets. He had been waking at night and playing in his bed. She feared he might begin wandering through their farmhouse during the night, like some of her other adopted children had.

Child in frenzy

Paddock told jurors how Sean bucked and screamed and even spit at her during the five nights she wrapped him. But she never imagined that she hurt him, she testified, because he never complained out loud.

She told jurors she loved the boy and wished she could take his place.

"It's a feeling like I've never felt in my life -- to lose a child," Paddock said. "All the bad things that ever happened to me in my life, I've never experienced anything like that in my life."

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

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