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Brother beaten inside church to testify against sister

21 October 2015, 12:16

New Hartford — The surviving brother of a pair of teenagers viciously beaten during a church counseling session is scheduled to testify against a relative who is among six church members charged in the attack.

Christopher Leonard, 17, is expected Wednesday to detail the Oct. 11 pummeling during a hearing on assault charges against his 33-year-old half-sister, Sarah Ferguson. Lucas Leonard, 19, died in the attack.

Ferguson, along with the victims' parents, Bruce and Deborah Leonard, and three other church members beat the brothers with fists, feet and an electrical cord, authorities said, as punishment for plans to leave the insular Word of Life Christian Church.

Christopher Leonard was hospitalized with injuries to his torso and genitals until being released over the weekend to the custody of Oneida County Child Protective Services, New Hartford police said.

His parents are charged with manslaughter and were being held on $100,000 bail.

Ferguson, a mother of four, also remains in custody after being charged, along with three others, with lesser counts of assault. Joseph Irwin, 26, David Morey, 26, and Morey's 54-year-old mother, Linda Morey, have been released on bail.

Wednesday's preliminary hearing is to determine whether authorities can continue to hold Ferguson.

All six have pleaded not guilty.

An attorney for the victims' mother has said she was too timid to stop the beating. A lawyer for the father has said the incident stemmed from a family meeting that had nothing to do with the church.

Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara said last week that the case will go to a grand jury within 45 days and that additional charges are likely.

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- AP

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