Paddock children still cope with brother's death

Date: 2008-05-28

Paddock children still cope with brother's death

 
By Mandy Locke, Staff Writer

SMITHFIELD - All but one of Lynn Paddock's children escaped their remote farmhouse in 2006, rescued when paramedics were dispatched there to try and save their lifeless brother Sean.
Lynn Paddock must answer to a jury this week for the death of 4-year-old Sean, who suffocated after being wrapped in blankets. A jury will hear about the torment the other six children she reared have described to detectives and therapists.

The oldest Paddock children said in court last week that they endured more than a decade of lashings with plastic plumbing pipe, meals deprived and mouths taped shut to keep them from talking to each other.

They lived, but for most of them, it's a limited kind of survival, according to reports prosecutors filed last week as part of the trial. The children's lives since -- and the wounds time hasn't healed -- were illuminated in evaluations by forensic pediatrician Sharon Cooper.

Their bruises have faded, and their welts have smoothed in these two years, the doctor's notes show. They've been scattered to new homes, some adopted by new parents. The girls no longer wear their ankle-length dresses. The youngest are in school, some for the first time. They're being fed, bathed and prescribed medicine to calm their nerves.

Paddock's attorneys declined to comment on the state of their client's children or her treatment of them.

Blaming themselves

Sean haunts the surviving Paddock children. He visits them in the dark of night, often when dreams take them back to the 12-acre farm where they lived in isolation with Paddock and her husband, Johnny, the doctor's assessment of them shows.

Two of the oldest Paddock children, Ray and Tami, blame themselves for not being able to save Sean.

Tami, 21, told the doctor in February: "I fall asleep, and when I'm really deep in sleep, I relive almost every night of my life with Lynn. In my dream, I'm trying to figure out what I could have done differently to save Sean and to get her to be a good parent."

Tami was 19 when Sean died, beyond the age at which social workers could take control of her.

She said last week that she's four months' pregnant now. Tami moved in with a friend in Hillsborough and waits tables at a diner to get by, she said in court. She has wanted to die ever since Sean suffocated, according to the doctor's reports.

"After Sean died, I felt like I didn't care and I had a death wish. So, I did everything that would mess me up," Tami told the doctor.

Tami snorted cocaine, popped pills and drank heavily, the report said. She has tried to kill herself more than a half dozen times: swallowing pills, shoving a gun in her mouth, stepping in front of a speeding car.

Tami took the stand last week and railed against the only mother she has known since age 10. Cooper, the doctor, worries that Tami, too, could turn out to be abusive to her child.

Kayla, now 10, tries to hurt herself, too, the doctor reports. Her foster family has found her stabbing herself with pencils and biting herself. Nighttime terrifies her.

"I'm afraid when I go to sleep that somebody is going to kill me," Kayla told the doctor last fall.

Ray, 17, has been lashing out at school, picking fights with other students and once getting kicked out for bringing a knife, the doctor reports. He's trying for the second time to pass the ninth grade; Cooper said all of the children were woefully behind for their ages under Lynn Paddock's home-schooling. Ray misses his dad, Johnny Paddock, and wants to drop out of school and go work with him. He, too, has been tempted to kill himself, the doctor found.

A pastor's tactics

While Ray blames himself for Sean's death, he also blames a stranger hundreds of miles away for coaxing his adoptive mother into a cruel discipline regimen. Lynn Paddock had been studying the teachings of Michael Pearl, an evangelical pastor from Tennessee who advises parents how to rear docile, God-fearing children.

"She had at least three big notebooks on that fool [Michael Pearl] and how to beat kids. I think that the fool ought to be sued and someone should show how to beat Pearl!" Ray told the doctor last November.

Michael Pearl declined to be interviewed for this report. The News & Observer visited Pearl at his church in Tennessee in 2006. At the time, Pearl said he couldn't be blamed for Paddock's discipline and that he never advocated wrapping children in blankets.

In the literature for Pearl's No Greater Joy ministry, he advises parents to whip children with plastic plumbing supply line. Paddock's children said in court last week that she kept a piece of the plumbing pipe in practically every room of their farmhouse and often stashed one in her wardrobe to avoid ever being without the instrument.

Despite his animosity toward Pearl, Ray still craves religion and wants to return to his family's Primitive Baptist Church in Angier. Tami, on the other hand, has shunned her faith.

"I feel Lynn wounded me spiritually," Tami told the doctor. "I used to pray, and I loved to read the Bible, and I cannot get interested in the church since Sean was killed."

Dealing with demons

Hannah, Sean's older biological sister, is terrified of the devil. Hannah, 9, told the doctor last fall that Lynn Paddock assured her "the devil would get her."

Since leaving Paddock's home, Hannah has crawled into empty bathtubs at her foster homes "playing dead, saying that she hoped that she would see Sean again," Cooper reported. She misses Sean terribly, Cooper found, and breaks out into a sweat at the mention of his name.

Hannah and David, Sean's biological siblings, get to see one another now and again, though David's been adopted, and Hannah lives in another foster home, Cooper reported.

David was severely malnourished when social workers took him out of the Paddocks' home -- the result, his oldest siblings said in court, of having his meals withheld for days on end and being banished for weeks to his bed. He has grown healthier and stronger since. David, the doctor found, blocks out much of what happened in the Paddocks' home.

Only Jessy, Johnny's biological daughter, has seemed to thrive since her stepmother went to jail. She lives with her father. Jessy, 20, waits tables and takes classes at Wake Tech, she said in court last week. She wears makeup and stylish clothes and pierced her tongue. Jessy said in court this week that she was spared much of Lynn's toughest punishments because she was a docile child.

Deputies locked up Lynn Paddock the night Sean died. In the weeks that followed, her children slowly began to confide in social workers and investigators about their treatment in the Paddock home.

Last year, Johnny Paddock divorced his wife of more than 16 years. He auctioned off the family farm and moved to Raleigh.

Ray dreams of moving back to the family farm, he told the doctor. Ray said he would change a few things, though. He'd haul in a double-wide trailer and torch the house where he lived with Lynn Paddock so many years.

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

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