The 17-year-old who survived an alleged hours-long beating inside a New Hartford, New York, church a little over two weeks ago appeared in court Wednesday and said his parents and half-sister whipped him about the arms, legs, back and genitals.
Christopher Leonard detailed the Oct. 11 attack that allegedly claimed the life of his 19-year-old brother, Lucas, New Hartford Police Lt. Timothy O’Neill confirms to PEOPLE.
Leonard told the judge that the church’s pastor asked that he and Lucas hang out after services that evening. Both brothers did, Christopher testified, and were allegedly eventually ushered into a “sanctuary room” for intense questioning, O’Neill explains.
Church congregants – including Leonard’s parents, Bruce and Deborah, and his half-sister, Sarah Ferguson – allegedly interrogated the two brothers for over a dozen hours, urging them both to confess their alleged sins, Leonard said in open court.
According to O’Neill, Leonard said that when they refused, church congregants became violent.
According to O’Neill, Leonard later told Virkler he and his brother did not fight back against the alleged beatings, for which congregants Joseph Irwin and David and Linda Morey also face charges.
“He testified that he would only raise his hands to fend off blows,” O’Neill tells PEOPLE, adding the alleged ongoing assaults inside the church lasted more than a dozen hours. “I think most people probably would if they were being whipped in the groin.”
Leonard, who also testified he had been punched and kicked during the alleged attack, said a four-foot cord was used to lash both brothers.
O’Neill says Leonard testified that he tried to revive his brother once he’d collapsed. Before allegedly performing CPR on his brother, Christopher recounted hearing Lucas moaning.
On Wednesday, Virkler ruled that prosecutors had enough evidence for the cases against all six defendants to proceed. That evidence – as well as the formal charges against the Leonards, the Moreys, Ferguson and Irwin – will be presented to a grand jury within the next 45 days for possible indictment.
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