Documents answer questions about mysterious Word of Life Church's background

CNY News, New York/October 16, 2015

By Brett Hall

New Hartford -- Documents obtained by CNYCentral show that Word of Life Church has been around nearly 30 years, but not always in Oneida County and not always under this name.

Jerry and Terri Irwin were founders of the church in Otsego in 1987. They are the parents of Joseph Irwin, who has been charged with assult in connection with the beating incident that led to the death of 19-year-old Lucas Leonard.

Word of Life's roots trace back to the incorporation of a church named City on the Hill: Mt. Zion Ministries.

Documents from the Oneida County clerk's office say in 1987 the congregation began meeting in Richfield Springs in Otsego County.

In 1992 a statement of removal document lists Word of Life Christian Church leaving Otsego County for Oneida County, however reasons for the relocation are unknown.

A school building used by the Sauquoit Valley Central School district until 1991 came into the picture in 1993. Property deeds however say Word of Life purchased the building from a businessman named Richard Alexander.

Employees in the clerk's office say he used to own several properties around the Utica and New Hartford area.

Members appear to have been in the congregation for a while. Bruce Leonard is listed as a trustee beginning in 1992.

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