One teen is dead and another is seriously injured in upstate New York after their parents beat them when one threatened to leave the church, police say.
A 19-year-old boy in upstate New York was beaten to death by his parents during a marathon 14-hour counseling session when he threatened to leave the church, police say.
Details emerged in court of the cult-like Word of Life Christian Church in New Hartford, N.Y., which adheres to fundamentalist principles and a literal interpretation of the Bible, and supposedly fostered an increasingly violent environment spearheaded by its preacher, based on witness accounts.
This environment may have culminated in the death of 19-year-old Lucas Leonard and serious injuries to his younger brother, 17-year-old Christopher, when his parents decided to confront them in a counseling session, according to a CNN report.
When Lucas threatened to leave the church, he was beaten over a 14-hour session using cords, prosecutors say, and Christopher was also beaten for unknown reasons.
Doctors in the emergency room thought that Lucas had been shot when he was taken to the hospital because his injuries were so severe. Police arrested his parents, 65-year-old Bruce Leonard and 59-year-old Deborah Leonard. Both are charged with first-degree manslaughter, and more charges are expected. Police will likely charge others in connection with the deaeths. The Leonards are in jail on $100,000 bond.
Lucas apparently said he wanted to leave the church, prompting the Leonards to turn violent against him, according to the report. They also allegedly beat his brother Christopher, who was in serious condition at the hospital from blunt force injuries during the same session. He had to be coaxed out of hiding near the church when police arrived.
Bruce Leonard accused Lucas of molesting children when they arrived at the hospital, but police have not found any justification for such a claim, as all children at the church were interviewed after being turned over to child welfare authorities and none showed signs of sexual abuse.
The Leonards have pleaded not guilty. The defense attorney claims that they are upstanding members of the community with no prior criminal record.