Couple Sentenced for Roles in Son's Fatal Beating by Church Group
The October 2015 attack left 19-year-old Lucas Leonard dead and 17-year-old Christopher Leonard fighting for his life, officials said.
An upstate New York couple has been sentenced for their roles in the fatal beating of one of their teenage sons and for seriously injuring another son during a violent church "counseling session," authorities said.
Bruce Leonard was sentenced to 10 years in prison, while his wife, Deborah Leonard, was given five years for participating in the October 2015 attack that left their 19-year-old son Lucas dead and their 17-year-old son Christopher fighting for his life, officials said.
The pair had previously pleaded guilty to assault, The Associated Press reported.
The 12-hour beating took place in the Word of Life Christian Church after Lucas said he was thinking of leaving the secretive New Hartford sect, Deborah Leonard testified in December 2015.
“The session turned physical,” New Hartford Police Chief Michael Inserra said during an October press conference. “Both brothers were continually subjected to physical punishment over the course of several hours in hopes that each would confess to prior sins and ask for forgiveness.”
Relatives brought Lucas Leonard to St. Luke’s Hospital after they found he wasn’t breathing, Inserra said. He was pronounced dead at the hospital, where medical personnel called police because they had mistaken his more serious injuries for a gunshot wound.
"I hit them with my open hand and punched them," Deborah Leonard previously testified.
Authorities said the teens were both beaten in the torso and genitals.
“It hurt everywhere,” Christopher Leonard testified at a hearing for his half-sister, Sarah Ferguson, who was also charged in the incident.
Ferguson and six other people who were charged for their roles in the deadly attack, including the church’s pastor, were all found guilty and were sentenced in separate hearings.
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