exposing the dark side of adoption
Register Log in

Judge declines to delay Paddock trial


Judge declines to delay Paddock trial

By Mandy Locke
Staff Writer

SMITHFIELD - A judge today denied the request of Lynn Paddock's attorneys to postpone her murder trial in the suffocation of her 4-year-old adopted son.

The lawyers argued that one of the state's experts, a forensic pediatrician, had failed to provide enough data to support her anticipated testimony.

The attorneys had asked for this data before trial, and a judge ordered prosecutors last month to turn over the information. Jack O'Hale, one of the attorneys, said that prosecutors violated open file discovery laws and the judge's order to provide it.

The pediatrician, Sharon Cooper, is expected to testify that Paddock engaged in sadistic and ritualistic abuse of her seven children. O'Hale argued that Cooper had offered no underlying data, such as medical research, to support her claim.

"I don't know where to go and investigate this," O'Hale said. "I'm not a doctor. She's learned this from somewhere."

But Superior Court Judge Knox Jenkins told O'Hale to not be ridiculous. Jenkins said that O'Hale could cross-examine the expert during the trial.

The judge also said he will hear the defense concerns again before Cooper's testifies.

Jenkins said Tuesday that a jury will be allowed to hear testimony from Paddock's grown children about abuse and humiliation they said said she inflicted. The children often spoke in whispers and stared down at their hands as they testified before Jenkins this week.

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

In the courtroom Tuesday, two 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.

For weeks after Sean's death, the children 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 not been charged in Sean's death or in the alleged abuse of his other adopted children. He has since divorced Lynn Paddock and may be called to testify in the trial.

mandy.locke@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-8927
2008 May 21