Photo: AP

The father of two boys beaten and whipped in a group counseling session last year testified on Wednesday that his sons were attacked by members of their church because they had been suspected of sexually molesting their sister and their half-sister’s children. “Blows that hurt drive off evil,” Bruce Leonard told the court, by way of explanation.

He was apparently referencing Proverbs 20:30 (NIV), which reads, “Blows and wounds scrub away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being.”

Leonard’s 19-year-old son, Lucas, died of injuries sustained during the beating, which was allegedly organized by the church’s pastor, Tiffanie Irwin. If he had been taken to a hospital sooner, a medical examiner testified on Wednesday, he would have survived. Leonard’s surviving son, 17-year-old Christopher, testified earlier this week that he and Lucas had indeed molested their sister Grace, as well as their half-sister Sarah Ferguson’s children.

Bruce Leanord was set to stand trial with Ferguson, his daughter, but he took a plea deal last week, just before proceedings began. Instead, he testified against Sarah Ferguson, his sons’ half-sister, on Wednesday. reports:

The beatings started with a punch and a slap and progressed to whipping Lucas Leonard with an electrical cord, Bruce Leonard said. Christopher Leonard started to bleed from the nose after being hit, he said.

The pastor told the two boys to stand and the whipping started when the cord was handed to their father, Bruce Leonard said. He estimated he whipped his sons about 20 times each with the cord.

They were whipped “so (they) would understand the hurt that they caused,” and to discipline and punish them, Bruce Leonard said.

Bruce Leonard said he handed the cord to his daughter, Sarah Ferguson, and she started the whip them, saying how could you. She was hitting them all over including in their groins, he said.

“I was letting it happen,” Leonard testified. It got “too big, too crazy.” He asked the church members to stop when he saw Lucas bleeding from his groin.

Both Leonard and his wife Deborah also participated in the beating. (Deborah also took a plea deal.) Ferguson is facing charges of second-degree murder, first- and second-degree manslaughter, two counts of first-degree assault, and two counts of first-degree gang assault.

The boys’ sister, Grace Leonard, testified that Lucas and Christopher had touched her inappropriately, beginning when she was 4 or 5 years old, until she was 13 years old.