NEW HARTFORD, New York, October 16, 2015– Local police were called to a New York hospital when 19-year-old Lucas Leonard was delivered to the emergency room early Monday morning. When admitted, the 19-year-old was in critical condition and covered in contusions, and had stopped breathing due to what appeared to be a severe beating. He died a short time after arriving at the hospital.
Several hours later, authorities went to the Leonard family’s church, Word of Life Church, where they found Lucas’ younger brother, 17-year-old Christopher, who was also in critical condition.
Upon arrival to the church, family members were allegedly reluctant to share information with authorities. Christopher emerged on his own from a second-floor room and police were able to remove him.
“Both brothers were subjected to physical punishment over the course of several hours, in hopes that each would confess to prior sins and ask for forgiveness,” Police Chief Michael Inserra said Wednesday.
Both teens suffered injuries to their abdomens, genitals, backs and thighs.
The father of the two boys, Bruce Leonard, 65, and mother Deborah Leonard, 59, were charged with first-degree manslaughter on Tuesday in Lucas’ death. Four other church members were charged with assault: David Morey, 26, Linda Morey, 54, Sarah Ferguson, 33, and Joseph Irwin, 26. Ferguson is the sister of Lucas and Christopher.
On Friday, all 6 pleaded not guilty.
Authorities removed seven other children from the church, aged 2 to 15. Four of the kids were Ferguson’s. The other three weren’t related, police said.
According to hospital officials, Christopher’s condition was improving as of last night. However, he still remains in the intensive care unit.
Devin Garramone, an attorney for Deborah Leonard, said that Deborah “didn’t have the temerity” to halt the beating of the teens after the confrontation became violent. Garramone said he believes that the other people involved were responsible for the fatal injuries.
Rev. Abraham Esper leads a Catholic church adjacent to the Word of Life church and said that members were elusive and unwelcoming.