Can Chadwicks church find a buyer?

Observer-Dispatch, New York/July 19, 2017

By Micaela Parker

Chadwicks — Nearly two years after the beating death of a local teen shook the small hamlet of Chadwicks, the large brick building where the crime took place has been put up for sale.

Eva Monaghan, 52, lives near the Oneida Street church where two teens were beaten for their perceived sins in 2015, one fatally. She’s glad the building is for sale, although she thinks its history might impede its eventual sale.

“I think it’s tainted,” she said. “I personally wouldn’t want an apartment there, but that’s just me. I wouldn’t want to live in an apartment where that happened but it’s an old building and something’s got to be done to it. Other people might feel the same, I certainly think they might take (the history of the building) into consideration.”

In 2015, nine members of the Word of Life Christian Church were charged with varying criminal charges in connection with an October beating on the property that resulted in the death of 19-year-old Lucas Leonard and severe injury of his younger brother, then 17-year-old Christopher Leonard.

All nine defendants — including the church’s pastor and the teens’ mother and father — have since been sentenced for their varying involvement in the incident.

The 44,000-square-foot building at 3354 Oneida St., owned by the church rather than a specific individual, is listed for sale on the website of Cushman & Wakefield Pyramid Brokerage Company. The listed price for the 1.86-acre property is $315,000.

New Hartford Town Supervisor Patrick Tyksinski, disagreed with Monaghan about a potential stigma.

“I don’t think that it’s going to have any effect on the sale of the building,” he said. “I think normally in buildings such as this, that were originally schools, a lot of times they get purchased for residential apartments or office-type buildings, usually professional offices or something like that.”

The possible sale of the building comes months after the May 2017 voluntary dismissal of a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the church against the Town of New Hartford. The suit previously alleged that numerous town officials deprived church members of their constitutional rights when they declared the church a public nuisance and ordered it closed in December 2015.

Attorney Frank Policelli, who represented the church entity and some of its members in the civil suit, said he was not going to discuss why the building is being sold and whether it is related to the voluntary dismissal of the civil suit.

“They’re selling it; they’re moving on. Life goes on,” Policelli said. “It’s not anybody’s concern or business as to why anyone is doing anything.”

While Tyksinski himself hasn’t been inside the property, he said the existing “division” of rooms into smaller classrooms would make it readily adaptable for apartments or offices.

“We’re hoping that’s what it is going to be, it would be a nice addition to that area down there,” he said. “Hopefully there would be some improvements to the property and building. It’d be nice getting that piece of property back on that tax rolls.”


* Two brothers — one of whom later died — were severely beaten inside Word of Life Christian Church in Chadwicks. The beatings began the night of Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015, and lasted until the next morning.

* Lucas Leonard, 19, died. His brother Christopher, then 17, was severely injured.

* Both victims suffered injuries to their stomachs, genitals, backs and thighs, police said, after enduring beatings during what police called a counseling session.

* The victims' half-sister Sarah Ferguson was sentenced to 25 years in state prison following her conviction of first-degree manslaughter, two counts of first-degree assault and two counts of first-degree gang assault after a June 2016 bench trial.

* The victims' mother, Deborah Leonard, 59, of Clayville, accepted a plea offer to five years in state prison for first-degree assault in the death of Lucas and two years in prison for second-degree assault for the beating of Christopher. The victims' father, Bruce Leonard, pleaded guilty to the same in return for a sentence of a maximum of 16 years in state prison.

* Co-defendants Traci Irwin, 50, and Daniel Irwin, 25, took Alford pleas, meaning they did not admit to any criminal wrongdoing, to first-degree criminal imprisonment in return for two years in Oneida County jail.

* Church Pastor Tiffanie Irwin took an Alford plea on Oct. 21, 2016, to third-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault. She was sentenced to 12 years in state prison. Her brother Joseph Irwin took an Alford plea to felony first-degree gang assault and second-degree assault and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

* Mother-and-son co-defendants Linda Morey and David Morey took an Alford plea to two counts of felony second-degree assault in return for five-year prison sentences.​

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