Skip to content

Parents and church members beat teen to death at family counseling meeting

Bruce T. Leonard, 65, and Deborah Leonard, 59( Photo source: New Hartford New York Police Department)

Bruce T. Leonard, 65, and Deborah Leonard, 59( Photo source: New Hartford New York Police Department)

On Wednesday at a press conference held by the New Hartford Police Department it was announced that a savage beating took place at a local church that led to the death of a 19-year-old man at the hands of church members and his parents. According to police, a church meeting for “family counseling” held on Sunday included several hours of physical beatings. The deceased young man was identified as Lucas Leonard and the deadly assault took place at the Word of Life Church in Hartford, NY.

Police Chief Michael S. Inserra announced that Leonard’s  parents, identified as Bruce T. Leonard, 65, and Deborah Leonard, 59, have been arrested and charged with first-degree manslaughter in their son’s death. Also arrested were church members Joseph Irwin, 26, David Morey, 26, Linda Morey, 54, and Sarah Ferguson, 33. Ferguson has been identified as Leonard’s half sister. All face felony charges.

The beating was an attempt to have Leonard confess his sins and ask for forgiveness.Also beaten was his brother Christopher Leonard, 17, both teens suffered blunt force trauma to their torsos, leg and arm injuries. But it was Lucas Leonard who ultimately died from the extended beating in which other church members may have participated.

On Monday morning, Oct. 12, 2015, it was noticed by church members that he was not breathing and he was transported to the hospital where he died from his injuries. Hospital officials notified police of the cause of death and a SWAT team was dispatched to the church.

Chief Michael S. Inserra of the New Hartford Police Department has stated that the investigation into the crime is ongoing and that the church’s leadership structure, its operations, and the congregation’s beliefs are being examined.