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Surviving brother in Word of Life Church beating testifies against sister

Tina Russell
Utica Observer Dispatch
Oneida District Attorney spoke with reporters last week.

The surviving brother in the brutal church beating in New Hartford made his first appearance in court yesterday.

In a barely audio voice, 17-year-old Christopher Leonard testified he and his brother were beaten by family members and others members of the Word of Life Church. Lucas Leonard, who was 19, died from his injuries.

In a hearing to determine whether the assault charge against the Leonard’s half-sister Sarah Ferguson should go a grand jury, Christopher Leonard told the court he was beaten by his sister, parents, and other church members. The parents of the two teens have been charged with manslaughter

Leonard testified he and his brother were beaten because they wouldn’t answer questions from the church pastor about, he said, “what we had done.” The questions were not described, and the Oneida County district attorney says Lucas Leonard simply wanted to leave the church.

Leonard said he and his brother Lucas where whipped, with an electrical cord four feet long. His father whipped him first, he said.

“Who else hit you?” asked assistant DA Dawn Lupee?

“My mother and sister,” testified Leonard.

“Where did Sarah hit you?”

“Sarah hit me everywhere except my head,” he said.

After the hearing, Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara commended Christopher Leonard for having the courage to testify.

“We asked him to do something that’s very difficult for anyone to do. I can’t imagine the stress he was under to go into a courtroom with this much media coverage to testify against his sister,” McNamara told reporters.

The judge ruled the prosecution presented enough evidence to proceed with the case against Sarah Ferguson. The DA says they will go to a grand jury within 45 days.