Christian pastor and 7 others indicted in beating 19-year-old to death for his sins

Lucas Leonard, 19, wanted to leave the Word of Life Christian Church, based in New Hartford, New York. The pastor, Tiffanie Irwin, and her family had other plans. Over the course of several hours, Irwin and others beat Leonard and his younger brother Christopher, 17. Christopher survived. Lucas did not.

According to the New York Times, Irwin was indicted on 13 counts along with her mother Tracy Irwin, the pastor’s two brothers Joseph Irwin and Daniel Irwin, the victims’ father Bruce Leonard, the victims’ half-sister Sarah Ferguson, as well as two other congregation members Linda Morey and David Morey (Linda’s son).

The victims’ mother, Debra Leonard, is expected to be charged for the murder and near-murder of the two boys separately.

Christopher Leonard testified last month that after a typical eight-hour mass one Sunday, Pastor Irwin asked the congregation to stay for a meeting. The meeting was called because Lucas Leonard had mentioned he wanted to leave the church. For six hours, the 8 indicted members beat Christopher and Lucas with fists and whipped with an electrical cord all over his body.

The word “church” may be in the name of this organization, but this is undoubtedly a cult.

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Bruce and Deborah Leonard (Twitter)

The Word of Life Christian Church claimed Lucas Leonard was practicing witchcraft and brought in the two boys for a “spiritual counseling.” They accused the boys of molestation, but authorities say the accusation is unfounded.

So far, Joseph and Tiffanie Irwin have pleaded not guilty. It’s hard to say what drives a family and their religious congregation — which should be a safe space — to beat children so badly they kill (or almost kill) them. As of now, Christopher Leonard has fully left the church.

Featured image via Twitter

Caitlin Cohen

Caitlin Cohen graduated from Boston University with a degree in History. She has written for DeadState for three and a half years. She technically speaks French. She lives in Los Angeles with her boyfriend and has big plans to one day get a dog.

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