Pastor Among 8 Indicted in Fatal New York Church Beating

25 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

8 Indicted in Fatal Beating at Word of Life Church.

The pastor of a secretive New York ‘cult’ where a young man was beaten to death and his younger brother seriously injured is among seven people now charged with his murder. Lucas Leonard was murdered by a mob of congregants – which included his own parents and half-sister – during a ‘counseling session’ at the Word of Life Church in New Hartford, New York The 19-year-old was beaten for 11 hours in the sanctuary on October 11 in an attack allegedly organized by the leader, Pastor Tiffany Irwin, after he said he wanted to leave the church. Pastor Tiffanie Irwin’s mother, Traci Irwin, also was charged in a 13-count indictment, as were Irwin’s two brothers, Joseph and Daniel Irwin, all of whom were leaders in the church. Leonard faces 13 criminal counts including second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, kidnapping and gang assault, according to an indictment released by the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office.

Also named were the victims’ father, Bruce Leonard; their half-sister Sarah Ferguson; and two other church members — Linda Morey and her son, David Morey. Over what he estimated was six or more hours, the teen said he was pummeled with fists and whipped with a 4-foot, folded electrical cord on the back and elsewhere, suffering injuries to his torso and genitals.

At a hearing last month, Christopher Leonard testified that Tiffanie Irwin asked the Leonard family and some others to stay behind for a meeting after an eight-hour Sunday service. Her attorney, Devin Garramone, said she would be arraigned next week on charges of first-degree assault in the death of Lucas Leonard and second-degree assault for the attack on Christopher Leonard. Garramone has said the mother felt helpless to stop an “intervention” that she didn’t expect to become so harsh and he didn’t believe she caused the fatal injuries. After the attack, the beating victims’ relatives refused to tell officers where to find the injured Christopher Leonard, who ultimately was located on the church’s second floor.

Irwin said he occasionally looked in on the session that started Sunday night and continued for over 12 hours, and he saw 19-year-old Lucas bleeding and in distress. Bruce Leonard’s lawyer, Donald Gerace, said the episode ‘could just as well have taken place outside the church.’ He said the Leonards had no intention of seriously injuring their son. Gregory Ames, 55, of Oneida County, New York, was eventually forced out by its charismatic founder, Pastor Jerry Irwin, after years in which he describes himself as having been a hostage in his own mind. ‘Bruce and Deborah are good people but they were mixed up.

They were brought to the point where anger was built up inside of them and they were trying to please the leadership.’ Ames said the origin of the cult was innocent and Christian. His wife was pleasant, recalled Ames, but added: ‘Jerry wasn’t the easiest guy to live with. ‘But he was a little disturbed – he had demons that tormented him. Jerry Irwin had died several years ago, around the age of 60, while on a road trip to a religious meeting with his family in the Midwest, Lt Timothy O’Neill, with the New Hartford Police Department, said. If we went down there, it was exclusively because they called us to deal with disorderly conduct, young people throwing rocks at the building or yelling profanities. ‘Thus far, we have not been told of any reports of the physical abuse like have been noted here.

But the difference was Jerry didn’t teach his children correctly and he handed over everything to them. ‘The next generation – they were into the physical.

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