One teen was fatally beaten in the sanctuary of a church that was supposedly disciplining them, police in New York say.
It was during a counseling session at Word of Life Christian Church in the upstate New York town of New Hartford that brothers Lucas and Christopher, both teens, were beaten with cords, which eventually resulted in Lucas Leonard’s death, according to a CNN report.
His injuries were so severe that doctors in the emergency room believed him to be shot at first, prompting authorities to arrest 65-year-old Bruce Leonard and 59-year-old Deborah Leonard, who were charged with first-degree manslaughter.
The Leonards remain in jail on $100,000 bond each. The cases will go before a grand jury. More charges are expected, and more people may be charged.
It was a marathon 14-hour counseling session, during which the victim wanted to leave the church, which prompted the violent turn of events, according to the report.
Family members later took the badly beaten 19-year-old Lucas to a Utica hospital, but doctors pronounced him dead.
His brother, Christopher, who is 17, was in serious condition at the hospital from blunt-force injuries suffered during the same session at the church. Authorities don’t know why he was beaten.
Authorities reportedly had to coax him out of hiding near the church. He is cooperating with the investigation.
Authorities don’t know exactly why the counseling session turned so violent. Bruce Leonard accused Lucas of molesting children while they were at the hospital, but there doesn’t appear to be any justification for these claims, according to the report.
A total of seven children at the church were turned over to child welfare authorities after th eincident. All of them were interviewed, and there was no sign of sexual abuse.
The Leonards have pleaded not guilty, with his lawyer arguing that they have no criminal history and have been upstanding members of the community for a very long time.
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