The Latest: Parents' case in NY church beatings can proceed

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Posted: Oct 16, 2015 4:32 PM
The Latest: Parents' case in NY church beatings can proceed

NEW HARTFORD, N.Y. (AP) — The latest on the fatal beating of a 19-year-old inside a church (all times local):

4:25 p.m.

A judge has found prosecutors have enough evidence to move forward with their case against the parents of two teens who were beaten at an upstate New York church.

New Hartford Town Court Justice William Virkler says Bruce and Deborah Leonard will be held on bail while evidence is presented to a grand jury. The two have been charged with manslaughter in the death of their 19-year-old son, Lucas. Their 17-year-old son, Christopher, was also injured.

They have pleaded not guilty. Both defense attorneys unsuccessfully asked for the charges to be dismissed, saying prosecutors hadn't submitted sufficient proof to justify a manslaughter charge.

Prosecutors say the brothers were beaten for hours at the Word of Life Christian Church during a counseling session that was also attended by four others accused of participating.

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3:45 p.m.

Police say the mother of a teenager who was beaten to death in an upstate New York church told an investigator she hit him with a cord because of "things that he had said."

State police Investigator Todd Grant testified Friday he didn't ask the mother, Deborah Leonard, what those things were.

New Hartford Town Police Chief Michael Inserra has said the beating earlier this week erupted from a spiritual counseling session over 19-year-old Lucas Leonard's desire to leave the Word of Life Christian Church.

Grant says Deborah Leonard told him she and daughter Sarah Ferguson hit Lucas Leonard with a cord. Grant says the mother demonstrated the blows, hitting a table "very hard."

Lucas' parents have pleaded not guilty to manslaughter. Ferguson has pleaded not guilty to assault.

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2:45 p.m.

A member of an upstate New York church where two teens were beaten says he watched their father strike them with what appeared to be a belt during a counseling session after services.

Daniel Irwin spoke Friday at a preliminary hearing for Bruce and Debra Leonard, who are charged with manslaughter in the death of their 19-year-old son, Lucas. Lucas' 17-year-old brother, Christopher, was seriously injured.

The couple has pleaded not guilty.

Irwin says he watched through a window and saw Lucas bleeding and rolling on the floor. Irwin described panicked members of the Word of Life Christian Church saying Lucas was dead. He helped load the teen's body into a van to send him to the hospital.

He says other counseling sessions had taken place, but no one had been hit before.

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2 p.m.

A judge has granted an extension to prosecutors in the case of two suspects charged with assault in the beating death of a 19-year-old and the injuring of his 17-year-old brother at an upstate New York church.

Joseph Irwin and Sarah Ferguson appeared in court in orange jumpsuits and shackled with chains around their waists. Ferguson is the victims' sister.

Assistant District Attorney Dawn Lupi says they need more time because Christopher Leonard remains hospitalized. Lucas Leonard died.

Lupi says there is a "strong possibility" the defendants will face more serious charges.

The case was postponed until Oct. 23.

Prosecutors say the brothers were beaten for hours at the Word of Life Christian Church.

Four others are charged in the case, including the boys' parents. All have pleaded not guilty.

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1:50 p.m.

A hearing for two upstate New York church members charged with assault in the brutal beating of two teen brothers has been postponed.

Prosecutors say they aren't prepared to go through with the hearing for David and Linda Morey because 17-year-old Christopher Leonard remains hospitalized and unable to testify. They are due back in court in court Dec. 15.

Nineteen-year-old Lucas Leonard died and his brother, Christopher, was seriously injured after both were beaten for hours at the Word of Life Christian Church in New Hartford.

Parents Bruce and Deborah Leonard have been charged with manslaughter. The Moreys, the teens' sister, Sarah Ferguson, and Joseph Irwin have been charged with assault.

All have pleaded not guilty.

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1:10 p.m.

A police spokesman says two people charged in the beatings of two teenagers at an upstate New York Christian church are out on bail ahead of a court hearing.

Four other people, including the teens' parents, are still being held and due in court Friday for a hearing.

New Hartford Police Lt. Timothy O'Neill said Friday that David and Linda Morey have been released. Their bail was set this week at $50,000 each.

Nineteen-year-old Lucas Leonard died and his 17-year-old brother, Christopher, was seriously injured after both were beaten for hours at the Word of Life Christian Church.

Parents Bruce and Deborah Leonard have been charged with manslaughter. The Moreys, the teens' sister, Sarah Ferguson, and Joseph Irwin have been charged with assault.

All have pleaded not guilty.

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11:45 a.m.

Church members have told police that a counseling session that escalated into a fatal beating of a teenager began as a discussion of his desire to leave the upstate New York congregation.

New Hartford Police Chief Michael Inserra said Friday that congregants explained that was the reason the session was called Oct. 11 at the Word of Life Christian Church. But Inserra says police "still have not concluded why the session turned so violent."

Nineteen-year-old Lucas Leonard died and his 17-year-old brother, Christopher, was seriously injured after both were beaten for hours. Their parents, Bruce and Deborah Leonard, have been charged with manslaughter. The teens' sister and three other people have been charged with assault.

All have pleaded not guilty. They have a court date Friday afternoon.