Testimony chronicles day of Sean's death

Staff WriterJune 4, 2008 

— Lynn Paddock's four youngest adoptive children barely uttered a word when social worker Heather Binder drove them to the hospital the day their little brother died, Binder testified Tuesday.

Binder, who then worked for the Johnston County Department of Social Services, had just seen bruises and scabs covering the backs of Sean's 9-year-old brother and two sisters, ages 7 and 8. Binder told jurors she decided to take emergency control of the children and wanted a doctor to examine them.

"They were extremely well- behaved," Binder testified. "It was like, sit still, look straight ahead, don't make a move, don't do anything."

Binder's testimony came during the murder trial for the children's adoptive mother, Lynn Paddock. She is accused of suffocating 4-year-old Sean by wrapping him so tightly in blankets that he couldn't breathe.

Binder met the Paddock family at the Johnston County Sheriff's Office the day Sean died in February 2006. One by one, she pulled the children into a private room. Some of them, Binder testified, offered excuses to her about their own injuries and Sean's death.

Ray, then 15, told her that brother David was banged up because he "throws fits" and probably injured himself during one of these episodes, Binder said. David told Binder that his little brother Sean died because "he was playing," Binder testified.

The children were timid and seemed depressed, Binder said. At the hospital waiting room, the children asked permission to pick up a dropped crayon. They recited Bible verses and gobbled down the snacks nurses offered them, she testified.

Binder told jurors that David, Sean's biological brother who had been adopted by the Paddocks along with Sean in 2005, seemed particularly vacant.

"There was no life behind his eyes," she said. "He seemed to be a very sad child."

David shook as Binder inspected his body, she testified. He was extremely thin, she said. He limped, too. She said she could see his spine protruding out of his back.

Benjamin Winter, a doctor in Johnston Memorial Hospital's waiting room, told jurors Tuesday that all the children appeared to be abused and needed nutritional supplements.

"These [injuries] were not accidental," Winter said. "You won't have this many over this much a part of your body in this many different stages of healing unless you're a football player."

The day Binder took control of the youngest children, she said she forced their father, Johnny Paddock, to look at David's bruises and injuries.

"Johnny Paddock looked down at the marks, hung his head and said, 'David, I'm so sorry,' " Binder testified.

Over time, the children began to tell Binder more about their life with Paddock. At one point, Binder said, the youngest girls told her that their mother spanked them with Johnny Paddock's belt.

"They said that [Johnny] might've liked it because during some of the discipline, he smiled," Binder told jurors.

When Binder spoke with Johnny Paddock the day Sean died, Binder testified, he told her that he was not opposed to his wife's discipline techniques.

Johnny Paddock has never been charged in Sean's death or the abuse of the other children. Throughout the trial, defense attorneys have pressed witnesses on how much Johnny Paddock knew about what happened to the children in his home.

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

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