In Oneida County Court on Monday, Tiffanie Irwin, the pastor of the Word of Life Christian Church, in New Hartford, New York, where a teenage boy was fatally beaten and his brother assaulted in October, turned down a plea deal, opting instead to go to trial. She is charged with second-degree murder.
Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara said that, had she taken the deal, the government would have recommended a sentence of no less than 18 years in prison for the pastor. If convicted, CNYCentral.com reports, Irwin faces up to 25 years.
“Cases of this magnitude, when you’re talking about homicide it’s very common for us to ask for the highest charge in the indictment,” McNamara said. “Once we asked for a plea for the highest charge in the indictment the sentence is totally up to the court. We don’t control sentence when we ask for the highest charge.”
Eight people have been indicted in Lucas Leonard’s beating death, including his father, half-sister, three church leaders, and three other church members. In November, Irwin and six others plead not guilty in. Christopher Leonard, Lucas’ younger brother, who survived his beating, testified against them. From the Associated Press:
Christopher Leonard testified that after an eight-hour Sunday service Oct. 11, pastor Tiffanie Irwin asked the Leonard family and some others to stay behind for a meeting.
The slight, bespectacled teenager paused, then said only: “To talk about what we had done. Lucas and I.”
He said he and his brother answered some questions during the interrogation but didn’t want to answer others.
Over what Christopher Leonard estimated was six or more hours, he was pummeled with fists and whipped with a 4-foot, folded electrical cord on the back and elsewhere, he said. He suffered injuries to his torso and genitals.
The boys’ mother, Deborah Leonard, was charged separately. She plead guilty to manslaughter in December.