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Fatal church beating: more facts emerge

Fatal church beating: more facts emerge

Lucas Leonard, 19, the NY man who was beaten to death at the Word of Life Church, was being subjected to a ‘family counseling session’ along with his younger brother, Christopher, 17.

Their parents, Bruce Leonard, 65, and Deborah Leonard, 59, above, have been charged with manslaughter.

In addition, four of the couple’s fellow parishioners were charged with assaulting the teenager’s younger brother on Sunday at the church in Chadwicks, New York, about 50 miles (80 km) east of Syracuse.

Michael Inserra, chief of the New Hartford Police, was reported here as saying:

Both brothers were continually subjected to physical punishment over the course of several hours in the hopes that each would confess to prior sins and ask for forgiveness.

According to this report, it is not clear what those sins were, but for several hours, from Sunday into Monday morning, punches and kicks landed on the brothers’ stomachs, genitals, backs and thighs, as the so-called counseling session turned into a case of manslaughter and assault.

Scott D McNamara, the Oneida County district attorney, said at a news conference.

We’re not alleging they intended to kill their son. We’re just alleging they were trying to seriously hurt their son, and ultimately he died from those injuries.

By all accounts the creepy Word of Life Christian Church operated as a secretive cult. The community that surrounded the church regarded it with trepidation, trading stories of odd behavior and awkward interactions.

But when the news of the attack emerged on Tuesday, the reality of life within those walls was much darker than many could have imagined.

Said Connie Toukatly, 76, who lives across the street:

Everybody in the whole town always said there’s something strange going on there; everybody felt that way. But it’s so sad that it came to this point.

Added Lynn Laventure, 52, whose parents live across the street:

Kids used to ride by on bikes in the summer and yell: ‘Don’t go in! You’ll never come out!’ It’s always been a mystery.

There were other oddities: there were fires on the roof, and the sounds of drums and chanting from inside. Dogs were heard barking at all hours, both inside and out, and the view in through many windows of the church was blocked.

At the front door of Word of Life, several Bible verses were posted, including one from the book of I John:

God is Light, in Him is no darkness at all.

The Leonards were apparently longtime members of the church, part of what Lt Timothy O’Neill of the New Hartford Police Department called “an immersive religious environment”.

This was a way of life. Their church life, if you can call it that, was the center of their world.

The authorities believed the church had 40 to 50 members, with some living at the church, which sits along a busy road adjacent to a Catholic church.

The Rev Abraham L Esper, the pastor at St Patrick’s-St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church next door, rejected the assertion that the Word of Life was a “real” church.

This is not of God. If this was of God, there would be growth. Not destruction.

9 responses to “Fatal church beating: more facts emerge”

  1. Broga says:

    I suppose with these cults the weirdness gets more weird as it is not diluted by outside beliefs and values. (A bit like Thought for the Day). As they turn ever more inward they take their values and beliefs from each other and no challenge, or even common sense, penetrates.

    I suppose also they feel they have the truth and they are the persecuted minority of followers of the true faith. They can also exercise on their more vulnerable members the kind of domination and pressure that does not occur in the wider world. As for confessing to “prior sins” I doubt whether the victims knew what they were supposed to confess and so could not satisfy the questioners.

    In the real world the parents and others look like weak, pathetic and hopeless victims of their religious beliefs.

  2. Dazed says:

    “This is not of God. If this was of God, there would be growth. Not destruction.”

    What a fatuous deluded assertion.

  3. Trevor Blake says:

    I can find several bible passages compelling parents to beat their children to death in specifi circumstances. Can any Christian point out reasons the bible is wrong in this matter?

  4. barriejohn says:

    Christians – please read the Bible. We need more atheists.

  5. Newspaniard says:

    “…We’re not alleging they intended to kill their son. We’re just alleging they were trying to seriously hurt their son, and ultimately he died from those injuries…” What a strange way of looking at murder. They beat him to death, regardless of their intentions. Do parents who starve their child to death because it didn’t say grace or other such nonsense, “not intend to kill their child, but merely wanted it to lose weight”. Where there is irrefutable evidence, then society does not need these people, hanging, with maximum publicity is the only punishment (In my view, barriejohn).

  6. Broga says:

    OT but significant I think. In this week’s New Statesman there is an article “Lessons from a digital rat brain.” Analysis of a sliver of a rat brain have enables research scientists in Lausanne to recreate that part in a computer. The behaviour of the digital brain sliver shows high fidelity to the original.

    Here are a few quotes which fascinate and encourage me as an atheist. They would disturb any open minded religious believer:

    .”…..there is nothing mysterious or miraculous about the brain…..”

    Understanding and recreating the properties of the brain “is a challenge because of the organ’s complexity. But it is an engineering , not a metaphysical challenge …….there is no need for superstition.”

    “The brain is more than the sum of its parts but not mysteriously so.”

    “At some point soon – maybe in a few decades – we are likely to build something is a computer that is probably conscious……….We will finally overcome the last of our superstitions.”

  7. Lucy1 says:

    I looked at some other reports. Seems that the poor boys were being accused of child abuse and witchcraft. Or that is what is being said now, Nasty smears to ‘justify’ what happened, perhaps.

    @trevor blake, a good point well made. Often xtians say that they follow jesus and the new testament. However big J did say he was not overriding the OT stuff.

  8. dennis says:

    yes, @Broga we may be able to separate conjoined twins and still believe in fairies ex. dr ben carson. I can not wait till the world understands it is “not a metaphysical challenge.” the ben carsons of the world will not deter our inventiveness.