exposing the dark side of adoption
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Verdict means adoptive father can't benefit from boy's death


RALEIGH, N.C. — The adoptive father of a Johnston County boy who was killed five years ago cannot benefit from any wrongful death suits in the case following a jury's finding that he was partly to blame for the boy's death, an attorney said Wednesday.

Sean Paddock, 4, was bound so tightly in blankets on Feb. 26, 2006, that he suffocated. His adoptive mother, Lynn Paddock, was convicted in May 2008 of first-degree murder and felony child abuse and is now serving a life sentence in prison.

Prosecutors have said they didn't have enough evidence to charge Lynn Paddock's former husband, Johnny Paddock, in the criminal case. He has maintained that he wasn't aware of the abuse his wife inflicted on Sean and the couple's five other adopted children.

Still, a jury in a civil trial determined Tuesday that Johnny Paddock "aided and abetted" in Sean's death.

"It matters a great deal to the people who care about Sean," said Jay Trehy, one of the attorneys representing Sean's biological grandfather, Ron Ford.

Ford has also filed wrongful death suits against the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina Inc., which placed Sean with the Paddocks, and the state Department of Health and Human Services, which was responsible for monitoring the home through the local social services offices in Wake and Johnston counties.

Tuesday's verdict removes Johnny Paddock as Sean's legal father, meaning he won't receive any money awarded in those suits, Trehy said.

Another trial will be held to seek damages from Johnny Paddock for Sean's death, but Trehy said it's unlikely they will ever see any money from that since Johnny Paddock has declared bankruptcy.

Ford plans to set up trusts for Sean's remaining siblings with whatever money is awarded in the lawsuits.

"Anyone who's spent that many years in such horrible abuse will be trying to recover for the rest of their lives," Trehy said.

The surviving Paddock children, including Johnny Paddock's daughter from a previous marriage, testified during Lynn Paddock's trial that she beat them almost daily with flexible plastic rods, wooden spoons and other devices. She also forced them to exercise or sit facing a wall for hours, controlled what they ate and when they went to the bathroom and denied them contact with other children and adults.

A forensic pediatrician described the abuse as "ritualistic torture" that was rooted in Lynn Paddock's obsessive need for control.

"They are products of cycle of violence we see," Trehy said of the children. "Lynn Paddock was abused as a child. She abused her child. We want it to end with this generation."

Three of the children are now in stable adoptive homes, and the other three are adults.

Reporter: Renee Chou

2011 Jul 20