People

Subscribe

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Crime

Mother of Boys Beaten at Upstate New York Church Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter, Assault Charges

Posted on

Chris Harris

The mother of two upstate New York teenagers who were beaten nearly two months ago inside a church they were trying to leave appeared in court Wednesday to plead guilty to manslaughter and assault charges.

The Oneida County District Attorney’s Office confirms to PEOPLE that Deborah Leonard, 59, pleaded guilty to two assault charges and one count of manslaughter stemming from the fatal beating of her son, Lucas Leonard.

The 19-year-old was beaten intermittently over a 12-hour period. His brother, 17-year-old Christopher Leonard, was also attacked during the Oct. 11 incident, but survived with numerous injuries.

Deborah Leonard, who homeschooled the children she had with her husband Bruce at the couple’s Clayville, New York, home, will be sentenced on Feb. 1, according to the district attorney’s office.

Word of Leonard’s plea comes one week after the release of a 13-count indictment against eight members of the Word of Life Christian Church in Chadwicks. (All eight have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.)

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

Those charged last week included the church’s 29-year-old pastor, Tiffanie Irwin, as well as Irwin’s mother, Traci, and her brother, Daniel.

The boys’ 66-year-old father, Bruce Leonard, and their half-sister, Sarah Ferguson, 33, were also named in the indictment.

Two counts of murder and manslaughter were filed last Tuesday against six of the defendants: Leonard, Ferguson, Linda Morey, Joseph Irwin, David Morey, and Tiffanie Irwin. They all also face multiple counts of kidnapping, assault, and gang assault.

Traci Irwin is facing single charges of murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, assault, and gang assault according to the indictment. Daniel Irwin, the pastor’s brother, has also been charged with manslaughter, kidnapping, assault, and gang assault.

Christopher Leonard said in court in October that church congregants interrogated the two brothers, urging them to confess their alleged indiscretions. When they refused, the two were intermittently beaten for hours.

Court records show the beatings may have been recorded.

Deborah Leonard s plea Wednesday was negotiated as part of a deal with the prosecution that will see the mother testify against her husband and the other defendants charged with Lucas’ death, a prosecution source confirms to PEOPLE. She is facing five years in prison as part of the deal.