Mother sobs when discussing boy's death

Mother sobs when discussing boy's death

Posted: Today at 11:12 a.m.
Updated: Today at 9:55 p.m.

Smithfield, N.C. - A Johnston County woman accused of killing her 4-year-old
adopted son took the stand Monday at her trial, weeping when describing her
own abused childhood and when talking about the dead boy.

Lynn Paddock, 47, is charged with murder in the Feb. 26, 2006, death of Sean
Paddock. Authorities said Sean was bound so tightly in blankets that he

Defense attorneys have argued that Sean's death was accidental and that
Paddock's actions were a form of discipline, not abuse.

"If I could take Sean's place, I would in a heartbeat," a sobbing Paddock
told jurors. "That's a feeling I've never felt in my life."

She said she swaddled Sean in a blanket to keep him from getting out of bed
at night to play and was stunned to learn he had died one morning.

"I started doing CPR. I thought he was still alive at that point. I thought
there was no way he could be dead," she said.

Paddock also broke down on the witness stand as she recounted being raised
by an abusive mother who drank and took pills.

"There was this big, very heavy PVC pipe that was also flexible, and that's
what she used to discipline us," she said, adding that she was later placed
in a foster home.

After trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant, Paddock said, she became
interested in adoption upon learning that Dave Thomas, the founder of the
Wendy's fast-food chain, encouraged people to adopt older children.

She and her then-husband, Johnny Paddock, adopted six children between the
mid-1990s and 2005, when Sean and his biological brother and sister were
placed with the family.

Lynn Paddock testified that some of her adopted children came to the couple
with emotional issues and that other families didn't want them.

"We decided that, no matter what, we'd take what God brought us. Whatever
they needed, we would give it to them," she said.

Deborah Artis, a regional director with the Children's Home Society who
worked with Johnny and Lynn Paddock to adopt the children, testified Monday
as the first defense witness that four of the adopted children had some
emotional problems prior to being adopted.

One of the adopted daughters lied a lot and another spent time at a
psychiatric hospital, while one of the adopted sons had anger issues,
according to Paddock.

Lynn Paddock said she and her husband decided to use discipline techniques
espoused by the Rev. Michael Pearl, an evangelical minister from Tennessee
who publishes books and articles on rearing submissive children. She said
swatting children with flexible plastic rods was preferred to spanking
because it was less demeaning.

"We liked Michael Pearl's (system) because it was quick (and) it didn't
demean the child and bring their self-esteem down," she said.

She described herself as a submissive wife and said she assumed the role of
disciplinarian in the Paddock home because Johnny Paddock once got too angry
while disciplining one of the children. Her ex-husband helped her purchase
the flexible rods, she said.

Johnny Paddock hasn't been charged in the case, and he said he was willing
to testify against his ex-wife, whom he divorced last year while she was in
jail awaiting trial.

Prosecutors spent two weeks presenting testimony from the surviving Paddock
children about almost daily abuse inflicted by Lynn Paddock and from expert
witnesses who called the beatings and restrictions placed on the children
"ritualistic abuse."

Lynn Paddock denied claims by some of the children that she wrapped their
faces in duct tape or forced Sean and his sister to eat feces. She said she
did make Sean's brother eat his own vomit, but said she thought he was
acting out like two of the other children.

"I'm very ashamed. Tami and Ray would make themselves vomit, and I thought
that's what he was doing too," she said.

Artis said she never physically inspected six children placed with a
Johnston County couple because the children seemed to be adjusting well to
their new surroundings. The adoption agency performs criminal background
checks on prospective adoptive parents and offers them parenting classes,
she said.

She wept on the witness stand when she looked at pictures of Sean's body,
saying she learned of allegations that Lynn Paddock hit the children with
rods and other devices through news coverage of the case.

The adoption agency has a "no-hitting" policy that the Paddocks signed, she

Lynn Paddock admitted that she lied to social workers about hitting the

Jurors also learned that the Paddocks received $2,200 a month in state
subsidies for adopting the children.