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Paddock jury won't hear call from daughter


Paddock jury won't hear call from daughter

Tami Paddock, 21, testifies in the trial of Lynn Paddock, who is charged in the death of her 4-year-old adopted son, Sean.

Mandy Locke, Staff Writer

SMITHFIELD - Tami Paddock testified that she needed to know why her little brother was dead.

It was February. Two days before the second anniversary of Sean's death. Tami Paddock, 21, was pregnant and scared. She had been drinking and said she wasn't sure she wanted to live any longer.

She phoned the Johnston County jail and asked to speak to Lynn Paddock, who had adopted Tami at age 10. Lynn Paddock was locked up, charged in the death of 4-year-old Sean. The mother and daughter hadn't spoken since the day he died.

The phone call, recorded like all calls to and from the jail, crackled across a prosecutor's speakers in a Johnston County courtroom Friday as Lynn Paddock's first-degree murder trial continued. A judge ruled that the jury cannot hear the phone call.

The exchange is raw and vulnerable. Lynn Paddock is soft-spoken and says she's grateful to hear from her estranged daughter. Tami Paddock sounds hurt and lashes out. She demands answers that her mother is reluctant to give over a recorded line. Lynn Paddock offers only that she has felt tired and overwhelmed.

Tami Paddock scolds her mother, telling her that she treated the children badly.

"Did you love any of us?" she asks.

"Of course. Maybe I didn't know a few things, but I loved you, and still love you," Lynn Paddock says.

"I never did anything that wrong. Yeah, I acted like a kid," Tami Paddock says. "It's just because we were adopted, we were scum beneath everyone's feet."

"I didn't feel that way," her mother answers.

Lynn Paddock asks if she can write her daughter a letter. She says she fears her lawyers will be upset that she talked to her daughter about Sean.

Tami Paddock presses on.

"Sean's death is coming up. He could have been 6 years old now. He had a life," she says. "I wish I was dead. ... I just can't take it anymore. Do you understand?"

"I understand," Lynn Paddock says. "I feel exactly the same way. Yeah, I'd rather be dead than have him dead."

Tami Paddock spent nearly four hours testifying Friday. Her face was blank, her answers slow. She told the jury she had suffered a mental breakdown last week after offering her testimony as part of motions a judge heard before a jury was picked. Since Sean's death, she said, she has been to a mental hospital and drug rehabilitation. She has experimented with drugs and tried to kill herself, she told jurors.

A defense attorney grilled her about how much her father, Johnny Paddock, knew about Lynn Paddock's discipline.

"You said Lynn was making Hannah do jumping jacks on Sunday morning? Your dad would have been there also?" asked Michael Reece, the lawyer.

"Yeah, somewhere," she answered.

"This is the time you said [Hannah] got hit like 30 or 40 times and got bruised up immediately. So, your dad would have been aware of that?" Reece continued.

"Yeah, somewhat," Tami Paddock said. "He knew she'd gotten in trouble."

Reece continued: "So he was aware of the discipline going on in the home, wasn't he?"

She stumbled: "He was ... not ... somewhat to the fullest extent."

Johnny Paddock has not been charged in Sean's death or in the abuse of the other children. All of the children have denied this week that Johnny Paddock ever harmed them.

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

2008 May 31