NEW HARTFORD, N.Y.— Police in a central New York town have scheduled a news conference Wednesday to discuss their investigation into the death of a teenager who was allegedly beaten inside a church by his parents.
Bruce and Deborah Leonard have been charged with first-degree manslaughter in the death of 19-year-old Lucas Leonard. Four other members of the Word of Life Church in New Hartford also have been charged in connection with the man’s death.
New Hartford police said Lucas Leonard died Monday after he was beaten at the church, located in a former school building. Officials said his injured 17-year-old brother was found inside the church and is hospitalized in serious condition.
Authorities have declined to discuss a motive or other details of the case, including how Lucas Leonard was killed or how his brother was injured.
The news conference was set for 1 p.m. at New Hartford police headquarters.
The elder Leonard, 65, and his 59-year-old wife live in the nearby hamlet of Clayville. The church is in a three-story brick building that once housed an elementary school. The congregation had been using the property as a church since the late 1980s or early 1990s, New Hartford town Supervisor Patrick Tyksinski told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The six church members were arraigned Tuesday and sent to Oneida County Jail. At the arraignment, it was revealed that both teens suffered injuries to their abdomens, genitals, backs and thighs. Bail for the Leonards was set at $100,000 each and for the four other defendants at $50,000 each. All pleaded not guilty.
Police said more arrests are expected as the investigation continues.
The investigation began at about 12:30 p.m. Monday when family members brought Lucas Leonard to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Investigators determined that the Word of Life Church was the scene of the crime, and the building was surrounded by special operations teams from state and local police agencies.
Police eventually entered the church, and several church members were interviewed. Several children were turned over to child welfare officials.
In addition to the Leonards, police arrested David Morey, 26, of Utica; Linda Morey, 54, of Utica; Sarah Ferguson, 33, who lives at the same address as the Leonards; and Joseph Irwin, 26, who lives in the church building.
Neighbors of the Leonards said Deborah Leonard stayed home to school her children. The family never celebrated Christmas, and the children weren’t allowed outside during Halloween, the neighbors told The Post-Standard of Syracuse.
“I remember them when they were this high,” neighbor Roberta Humble said of the Leonard’s four kids’ height. “They were my friends. The kids were always polite and well-mannered.”