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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

Church Members on Trial for Beating, Killing Fellow Church Members

  • Veronica Neffinger
    Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world
  • 2016 Jun 23
  • Comments

Members of Word of Life Christian Church in New Hartford, New York have been indicted in the death of a fellow church member and the severe beating of another.


According to a report from, two brothers, Lucas Leonard, 19, and Christopher Leonard, 17, were severely beaten by church members, including family members, when they expressed their desire to leave the church. Lucas ultimately died from the injuries he sustained in the assault.


Eight church members were indicted back in November, including the church’s pastor, Tiffanie Irwin, the boys’ mother, Deborah Leonard, their father, Bruce Leonard, and half-sister, Sarah Ferguson.


Pastor Irwin allegedly requested the boys and their parents to attend a “spiritual counseling” meeting after the church service in which they would address the boys' desire to leave the church.


According to testimony from Christopher Leonard, who sustained serious injuries, during this “meeting,” the church members took turns holding the boys down and beating them.


The suspects turned down a plea deal on Monday, and Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara explained that the deal recommended a sentence of no less than 18 years in prison for Irwin.



Publication date: June 23, 2016