On Tuesday, a judge found Sarah Ferguson not guilty of second-degree murder, but guilty of first-degree manslaughter, first-degree assault, and first-degree gang assault for her role in a mass beating that left her 19-year-old half-brother Lucas Leonard dead and her 17-year-old half-brother Christopher Leonard severely injured.
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.
The murder trial of Sarah Ferguson began in Utica, New York, last week. Ferguson is accused of participating in a group counseling session at the Word of Life Church that left her 19-year-old half-brother Lucas Leonard dead and her other half-brother, Christopher, mutilated. Prosecutors said the beatings began when Tiffanie Irwin, the church pastor, allegedly accused the boys of using witchcraft, making a voodoo doll of the pastor, and sexually abusing their siblings and nieces.
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.
Word of Life Christian Church, the upstate New York congregation where two teenaged brothers were allegedly brutally beaten by their parents and others, one fatally, had a creepy reputation among its neighbors in New Hartford. According to one former member, the goings on inside were even more chilling than the rumors suggested.