Had he been a dog…

If Sean Paddock had been allowed to live, he would have spent this summer playing outside in the warmth of the North Carolina sun. Or would he have? Lynn Paddock, his adoptive mother tortured and abused the four year old who had come to live under her protection until she succeeded in taking his life. Evidently, had he continued to live under her care, he would not have been allowed to live the life of a normal child.

Had Sean been a dog, there would have been a national outrage over the circumstances of his untimely death and how an adoption agency placed an innocent creature into the hands of a woman who herself was a victim of abuse and instability. Animal lovers everywhere would have protested the death and stormed an agency they would have determined not capable of protecting the rights of animals. But Sean was a child. He suffocated, tied so tightly in a blanket he could not breathe. To make sure he made no verbal objections to his complete and total capture, Lynn wrapped duct tape several times around his mouth and head. His young body starving and bruised bore witness to his abuse, but on the day of his burial no one could see the even deeper emotional scars that the toddler took with him to his death or comprehend how terrified he must have been. On the day he was buried, outsiders did not make a big deal over the circumstances of his demise. His biological parents paid him a last visit, wondering how they could have lost their son and how social services could have taken their child away from them and placed him in a situation that was so detrimental to his survival. His aunt and uncle, financially unable to raise the boy after he had been taken from his birth parents apologized to the small silent figure. His aunt bent over to kiss him and sobbed, “Oh, baby, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

But all the sorrys in the world are not going to bring back Sean.

Whenever Lynn Paddock felt that Sean was out of line, she would discipline him by beating him with a plastic hose, order him to eat feces and vomit, and denied him meals. His older biological siblings, David, 9, and Hannah, 8, suffered the same torture. During her trial, Paddock’s own siblings tried to justify her behavior towards her adoptive children by claiming that Paddock herself faced similar disciplinary tactics while growing up under her mother’s care. But she is alive and Sean is not.

No social worker took enough time or cared enough to make sure that Sean and his siblings were being taken care of properly. Since the children were not dogs, no neighbors called the animal police to report the abuse or torture that continued both inside and outside the premises where the Paddock family lived. And though Wake County Protection Services had been involved with Sean and his siblings since birth, they were negligent about the children’s care, were blind to the abuse the children endured, and need to share part of the blame for Sean’s murder.

Sean’s adoption carried with it a dowry. The state of North Carolina pays new parents and private adoption groups such as the one that placed Sean in Paddock’s care, The Children’s Home Society, to help recruit families. In 2005, social workers declared that Lynn Paddock’s home was the best place for Sean and his siblings to grow and thrive. The state sent Lynn her first monthly check for $1,270.

Sean Paddock, who had been bound and beaten, died in a dreary dark attic all alone. Had he been a dog, perhaps Lynn Paddock and her husband would have been more carefully screened and the child would still be alive today. Lynn was found guilty of first-degree murder and will serve a life sentence. This is a small price to pay for the life of an innocent child.