Sheehan

Where was Sean Paddock's father?

Staff WriterJune 9, 2008 

At the trial of Lynn Paddock, accused of abusing and finally murdering her adopted 4-year-old son Sean, the stories of her surviving children have been horrifying, unbearable.

But there is one person who has been missing on the stand: Lynn Paddock's husband, answering questions about where he was and what action he took at the time the abuse was allegedly occurring.

Johnny Paddock is the "other parent" in this case.

But how to figure his role? Child abuse experts in a variety of fields -- law, social work, psychology -- say there has been research done on the "other parent" in cases of sexual abuse, but very little in cases involving alleged physical and psychological abuse.

In the end, experts ask the same questions you and I do:

What did he know? What did he know but ignore? Perhaps most important: What should he have known?

Apparently, both the Paddocks found merit in the Christian child-rearing advice of Michael and Debi Pearl, who advocate using PVC piping, "10 licks at a time," to reprimand a child.

But did Johnny Paddock know to what extremes his wife had taken the tactics?

According to the children's testimony, Lynn Paddock hid some of her cruelty from her husband. She kept big box fans whirring in the bedrooms to drown out the sounds of her "interactions" with the kids.

Johnny Paddock worked long hours. To hear the children tell it, even when he was around, he was largely unaware.

But these people did not live in a mansion.

In the end, the children defended their father. They testified he never raised a hand to them.

They do not blame Johnny Paddock.

But some abused children apparently need to cling to the notion that one parent was kind and loving. Oftentimes, the experts say, it is when children get older that they come to feel the betrayal of the other parent, the one they come to believe gave tacit permission for the abuse to occur.

As John Myers, a professor of law at the University of the Pacific, put it:

"Doing nothing is doing something."

Johnny Paddock divorced his wife shortly after her arrest and apparently has severed all ties with her.

That's fine.

But why did it take the death of a 4-year-old boy, bound so tightly in urine-soaked blankets that he suffocated, for Johnny Paddock to see the monstrous actions his children described on the stand? Where was he until then?

What makes the situation even more tragic is that, because these children were homeschooled, Johnny Paddock was the only adult who might have heard their cries and saved them.

A jury will soon decide whether Lynn Paddock's actions led to her youngest adopted son's death.

But what about the role of the father?

Of the many responsibilities parents have to their children, it seems to me two come first: to love them unconditionally and to do our best to keep them safe from harm.

If the Paddock children had been beaten and humiliated, forced to eat their own feces, by their father, every parent I know would be asking, where was the mother?

I ask, where was the father?

ruth.sheehan@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4828

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