Pas­tor, three oth­ers guilty in church beat­ing that killed teen

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

The pas­tor of a small church where two broth­ers were beaten for hours dur­ing a coun­sel­ing ses­sion that she called pleaded guilty on Fri­day to man­slaugh­ter and as­sault.

Three other church mem­bers ad­mit­ted to less se­ri­ous charges for their roles in the all-night beat­ings that killed Lu­cas Leonard, 19, and in­jured Christo­pher Leonard, 17, last Oc­to­ber.

Word of Life Chris­tian Church Pas­tor Tif­fanie Ir­win, her brother Joseph Ir­win and mother and son church mem­bers Linda Morey and David Morey were the last of nine peo­ple charged to be con­victed in the at­tack, which in­ves­ti­ga­tors say took place af­ter the broth­ers dis­cussed leav­ing the con­gre­ga­tion. Joseph Ir­win and the Moreys each pleaded guilty to as­sault.

Oneida County District At­tor­ney Scott McNa­mara called the case “a ter­ri­ble tragedy.” “I can only hope that Luke can rest in peace, Chris can get on with his life,” McNa­mara said.

The vic­tims’ par­ents and half­sis­ter and the pas­tor’s mother and a sec­ond brother were among those charged af­ter mem­bers of the se­cre­tive church took the blood­ied body of Lu­cas Leonard to a hos­pi­tal, where doc­tors ini­tially thought he had been shot. Au­thor­i­ties later found his badly in­jured brother still in­side the con­verted New Hart­ford school build­ing that housed the church and liv­ing space for its lead­ers.

Christo­pher Leonard tes­ti­fied at an ear­lier hear­ing that Tif­fanie Ir­win asked his fam­ily and some oth­ers to stay be­hind for a meet­ing af­ter an eight-hour Sun­day ser­vice last Oc­to­ber. Over the next 14 hours, he said, he and his brother were pum­meled in their tor­sos and gen­i­tals with an elec­tri­cal cord.

McNa­mara has said the broth­ers were or­dered dur­ing the beat­ing to re­pent for a va­ri­ety of sins, in­clud­ing us­ing a voodoo doll. Po­lice have said there was no ev­i­dence to sup­port a claim by their half­sis­ter, Sarah Fer­gu­son, that they had mo­lested her chil­dren.

Fer­gu­son was con­victed of man­slaugh­ter and as­sault af­ter a non-jury trial in July. The only de­fen­dant to de­cline a plea deal, she was sen­tenced last month to 25 years in prison.

The vic­tims’ par­ents, Deb­o­rah and Bruce Leonard, pleaded guilty to as­sault. The church’s ma­tri­arch, Traci Ir­win, and her son Daniel Ir­win, a dea­con, ad­mit­ted to counts of un­law­ful im­pris­on­ment.

Sen­tenc­ings are sched­uled for De­cem­ber and Jan­uary.

Ir­win

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