UPDATE:: Additional motions filed in Word of Life church case
Among the points argued by attorney Rebecca Wittman on behalf of her client Sarah Ferguson — something that includes the reduction or dismissal of her charges and suppression of certain physical evidence due to inadequate probable cause — Wittman requested all documentation in custody of the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office to determine if any other witnesses exist.
“This request would also include any grand jury testimony or other notes or documents wherein (a child) made admissions to any sexual and/or other abuse inflicted by Lucas or Christopher Leonard,” she wrote.
She also requested documents from any other children regarding the same. Law enforcement officials have repeated that there is no information to back up allegations of sexual abuse by either teen.
In his own motions, attorney William Roth also requested the dismissal or reduction of charges filed against his client Daniel Irwin as well as the suppression of all evidence obtained as a result of an “unreasonable” search and seizure.
Roth moved in his motions to suppress all statements from use directly or indirectly against his trial, as they were “involuntarily obtained.”
UPDATE:: Word of Life Church pastor in court, case adjourned
Word of Life Christian Church Pastor Tiffanie Irwin was briefly in Oneida County Court Monday and had her case adjourned until mid-February.
Irwin, who is one of nine church members accused of taking part in an October counseling session that resulted in the death of 19-year-old Lucas Leonard and severe injury of his 17-year-old brother Christopher Leonard, was supposed to be in court for answer and argument— where prosecutors and public defender Kurt Schultz would discuss motions he made last week regarding the case.
It was adjourned until Feb. 22 because Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara was unable to attend the proceeding.
UPDATE:: Document: Pastor accused teens of sex abuse, witchcraft
Utilizing her authority within the church, something that includes congregants’ belief that she was a prophet, the document alleges that she accused the teens, who were barred from leaving of having sexually abused numerous minors, several of whom have family ties to the teens; having fantasized about engaging in sexual relations with the pastor; having practiced witchcraft and used a voodoo doll to harm people; and having planned and/or taken initial steps to kill their parents.Prosecutors and law enforcement officials have stated on multiple occasions that there is no information to support the allegations of sexual abuse by the teens or witchcraft.
UPDATE:: Pastor Among 8 Indicted In Hours-Long Church Beating That Killed 19-Year-Old
The pastor of an insular New York church where a young man was beaten to death and his younger brother seriously injured was among seven people charged Tuesday with murder.
Pastor Tiffanie Irwin's mother, Traci Irwin, also was charged in a 13-count indictment, as were Irwin's two brothers, Joseph and Daniel Irwin, all of whom were leaders in the church. Also named were the victims' father, Bruce Leonard; their half-sister Sarah Ferguson; and two other church members — Linda Morey and her son, David Morey.
Authorities have said "spiritual counseling" spiraled into an all-night gang attack on Lucas and Christopher Leonard inside the Word of Life Christian Church, a red-brick former elementary school in New Hartford that serves as both a church and a home for the Irwins.
UPDATE:: Court Documents: Church Beatings May Have Been Recorded_____
But newly obtained court documents, given by the Oneida County District Attorney's Office, suggest some crucial evidence pertinent to the case was given to an assistant public defender by a potential defendant. The documents identify that individual as Word of Life Church's pastor, Tiffanie Irwin.
After reviewing several text message conversations between one of the six defendants and his mother, as well as with Irwin, court documents say District Attorney Scott McNamara became aware that there could be a recording of the lengthy and brutal beatings.
Two New York parents are accused of literally trying to beat the word of God into their two sons. Unfortunately, in the case of one of the young men, the violence-based testimony worked too well, and one of Deborah and Bruce Leonard’s children got to meet Jesus well before his time.From the NYTimes,
According to New Hartford police, the parents and other adult members of the congregation had been trying to force the Leonards’ 19 and 17-year-old sons to confess their sins and beg God for forgiveness when the beatings became too much for their offspring.
“Both brothers were subjected to physical punishment over the course of several hours, in hopes that each would confess to prior sins and ask for forgiveness,” Police Chief Michael Inserra explained. The nature of the “sins” the Leonards were hoping to beat out of their children is unclear, but Inserra says that more arrests are expected.
The authorities in New Hartford, a Utica suburb west of Albany, were trying to determine the exact organization, leadership and teachings of Word of Life, which had little presence online and has few public records.Lt. Timothy O’Neill of the New Hartford Police Department said the authorities believed that the church was led by Traci Irwin, referred to as Mother by some members. Ms. Irwin’s husband, Jerry Irwin, was also involved in the church, and the current pastoral leader of the group was her daughter, Tiffanie, Lieutenant O’Neill said.
Christians Beat Son To Death In Church While Trying To Make Him ‘Confess’ To His ‘Sins’ (VIDEO) | If You Only NewsAnother child, Joseph Irwin, 26, was among those arrested and charged with assault, as were two other congregants: David Morey, 26, and Linda Morey, 54, both of Utica.,,,The Leonards were apparently longtime members of the church, part of what Lieutenant O’Neill called an immersive religious environment. “This was a way of life,” he said. “Their church life, if you can call it that, was the center of their world.” Lucas and Christopher were home-schooled, said Ron Wheelock, the superintendent of the Sauquoit Valley Central School District.
Terry Windham, 38, a cousin of Lucas and Christopher who lives in Texas but visits the family several times a year, said the elder Mr. Leonard “was close to his kids.”“None of this makes any sense,” Mr. Windham said. “He was good to his kids — they all got along. They were all real close, they were a close-knit family.”He said the elder Mr. Leonard worked as a teacher’s aide and enjoyed doing projects with his children, but did not speak about the church or any religious beliefs at family functions he attended.Of Lucas and Christopher, Mr. Windham said: “They were outgoing, they were friendly, they seemed fairly intelligent for their ages. They wore nice, decent clothes.”The authorities believed the church had 40 to 50 members, with some living at the church, which sits along a busy road adjacent to a Catholic church.