2 charged in church beat­ing case ac­cept plea agree­ments

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS -

Two lead­ers of a se­cre­tive New York church pleaded guilty Fri­day to their in­volve­ment in a vi­o­lent all-night “coun­sel­ing ses­sion” that left one young man dead and an­other se­verely in­jured.

The church’s ma­tri­arch, Traci Ir­win, and her son Daniel Ir­win, a dea­con, ac­cepted plea deals in Oneida County Court on Fri­day in which each ad­mit­ted to two counts of un­law­ful im­pris­on­ment in ex­change for two-year pri­son terms.

The two were among nine peo­ple charged fol­low­ing the beat­ing death of 19-year-old Lu­cas Leonard at Word of Life Chris­tian Church in New Hart­ford last Oc­to­ber.

Leonard’s then-17-yearold brother Christo­pher sur­vived the beat­ing that au­thor­i­ties said was de­liv­ered by the vic­tims’ par­ents, step-sis­ter and other church mem­bers and lead­ers after the teens dis­cussed leav­ing the con­gre­ga­tion. In court Fri­day, District At­tor­ney Scott McNamara said nei­ther Traci Ir­win nor Daniel Ir­win phys­i­cally harmed the broth­ers. Traci Ir­win was not in the room for the beat­ings but was aware of the ses­sion and sought up­dates, the pros­e­cu­tor said. Daniel Ir­win acted as a guard, the pros­e­cu­tor said.

Mur­der, kid­nap­ping and as­sault charges are pend­ing against Daniel Ir­win’s sis­ter, Tif­fanie Ir­win, who was the church’s pas­tor, and their brother, Joseph Ir­win, as well as motherand-son church mem­bers Linda and David Morey.

The vic­tims’ par­ents, Bruce and Deb­o­rah Leonard, have pleaded guilty to as­sault and their half-sis­ter Sarah Fer­gu­son was con­victed of man­slaugh­ter.

Christo­pher Leonard tes­ti­fied at an ear­lier hear­ing that Tif­fanie Ir­win asked the Leonard fam­ily and some oth­ers to stay be­hind for a meet­ing after an eighthour Sun­day ser­vice last Oc­to­ber. The teen said he and his brother were pum­meled for hours in the torso and gen­i­tals with fists, feet and an elec­tri­cal cord.

Traci Ir­win is sched­uled to be sen­tenced Dec. 5. Daniel Ir­win’s sen­tenc­ing was set for Dec. 9.

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