6 church members arrested after teen dies during session to “confess sins”

Leonard

See photos of the church members

NEW HARTFORD, N.Y. (WIVB) — A group of six members of a New York church are in police custody, being held on bail for charges spanning from manslaughter to assault in the death of a 19-year-old found unresponsive after hours of beatings.

Officers say they’ve been investigating the death of 19-year-old Lucas Leonard between Monday and Tuesday. Officers stormed the New Hartford Word of Life church with guns drawn after narrowing down where the beating took place. Police Chief Michael Inserra said his officers acted in an abundance of caution in conjunction with other local and state police forces.

What they found inside the three-story church led them to arrest on manslaughter charges Bruce Leonard, 65, and Deborah Leonard, 59, Leonard’s mother and father, and four other parishioners on assault charges, including the victim’s sister. Officers say they also located Leonard’s 17-year-old brother also beaten.

In a press briefing Wednesday, Inserra announced they learned the group of people they arrested took part in a counseling session with the goal of getting the two brothers to confess their sins, although police said they don’t yet know what the sins were.

The beatings allegedly lasted for hours, and when Leonard finally was rushed to the hospital, medical personnel originally reported he had a gunshot wound due to the severity of the beating.

Officers say the investigation is very open, as they are pressing the public to help them acquire more details about the beating and the members of the Word of Life church.

Leonard’s parents are being held on $100,000 bail each, however the other four are being held on $50,000 bail each.

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