Many religious belief systems subscribe to punishment for sinning, but parental beatings as part of a “counseling session” at a New York church resulted in death and serious injury. Now the parents of two teen aged victims of church discipline met their punishment.
New Hartford Police Chief Michael Inserra previously commented about the incident that occurred at the Word of Life Church. The Chief revealed that the teens, Lucas (pictured on right) and Christopher Leonard (left), were physically punished for hours, “in hopes that each would confess to prior sins and ask for forgiveness.”
Instead, 19-year-old Lucas died, and 17-year-old Christopher was seriously injured. Police noted that Lucas was said to have “died a violent death over several hours.” The beatings occurred over October 11-12, 2015.
Initially, six church members, including the victims’ parents and sister, were locked up. The parents, Bruce Leonard, 65, and Deborah Leonard, 59, of Clayville, were charged with first-degree manslaughter in the death of Lucas.
Sentencing was held Monday for the couple. The mood in the courtroom was described as similar to that of a funeral.
Judge Michael Dwyer heard testimony from the father, who stated, “I have changed.” Three witnesses spoke to the defendant’s character. The father said, almost inaudibly, “There’s no way I would ever condone that (today).”
Both husband and wife had previously pleaded guilty to charges of first- and second-degree assault. The victim impact statements, delivered by Leonard’s daughter, brother-in-law and a pastor, made an impact on the judge, who reduced the father’s sentence from 16 years in prison to 10 years.
Deborah Leonard, the mother, received a sentence of 5 years in state prison. She expressed extreme sorrow and apologized to her “church family” and her boys, “for not recognizing the warning signs and not getting help and for the environment you were raised in. You deserve much better.”
And these parents, who beat one son to death and another to serious injury, deserve much more as well. The court granted them extreme mercy, while they had none for their sons.
[Feature Photo: Handout]