Father of Word of Life beating victims rejects plea; eight cases headed to trial, district attorney says

Rome Sentinel, New York/January 19, 2016

By Sean I. Mills

All eight remaining defendants in the Word of Life church murder case have rejected plea offers and will take their cases to trial.

The question remains as to how many trials will need to be held in County Court.

Bruce Leonard, 65, of Clayville, rejected an offer this morning of 18 years to life in prison in the death of his son, 19-year-old Lucas Leonard.

He is charged with murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, assault
and gang assault.

Leonard and his attorney, David Longeretta, are scheduled to reappear in court for motion argument on Feb. 26.

The other seven Word of Life defendants rejected similar offers last week.

Leonard’s wife, Deborah Leonard, has been the only one so far to plead guilty.

District Attorney Scott D. McNamara said today that Leonard will likely need to be tried separately from some of the other Word of Life defendants, though he did not go into specific detail as to why.

McNamara simply said there were legal divisions between some of the defendants.

McNamara said he anticipates at least two trials to cover all eight defendants.

The decision whether or not to sever the cases, and along what lines, will be made by Judge Michael L. Dwyer after motions are filed.

Authorities said on the night of Oct. 11, Lucas Leonard and his younger brother, Christopher Leonard, were the focus of a “counseling session” at the secluded Word of Life Christian Church in New Hartford.

Bruce Leonard and the other defendants are accused of beating the Leonard brothers over the course of the night.

Lucas died of his injuries on Oct. 12. Christopher was hospitalized from his injuries after investigators went to the church and found him.

According to statements to law enforcement investigators and court documents, the “counseling session” was sparked in response to Lucas Leonard’s expressed interest in leaving the secluded church.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.

Educational DVDs and Videos