The first of what is expected to be two trials related to last October’s Word of Life Church beatings will conclude today. Closing arguments will be made in the bench trial of Sarah Ferguson. She is the half-sister of the two victims, Lucas and Christopher Leonard, who were beaten at a specially called “counseling session” following church services on October 11, 2015. Lucas died of the injuries he sustained in the beating and Christopher suffered serious internal injuries.
Ferguson is accused of second degree murder, acting against Lucas Leonard with depraved indifference. She is also charged with two counts of first degree manslaughter; one for intent to cause serious injury that resulted in a death and the second for recklessly causing a death. There are two counts of first degree assault, one each for actions against Lucas and Christopher, and two counts of gang assault.
Ferguson’s mother, Deborah Leonard, and step father, Bruce Leonard, parents of the victims, have taken plea deals. They both testified during the trial. Six others, including the pastor of the Word of Life Church, Tiffanie Irwin, are awaiting trial in the fall. Most have been charged in a thirteen count indictment handed down by an Oneida County Grand Jury.
Oneida County Judge Michael Dwyer has been providing over the bench trial. Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara has presented the brunt of the people’s case against Ferguson. Defense attorney Rebecca Wittman presented Judge Dwyer with several motions, at the close of testimony, to have several of the charges against Ferguson either dropped or reduced. Judge Dwyer said that he would take the requests under consideration and rule on them Tuesday morning before closing arguments.
Eyewitness News will post updates on the court session today as the closing arguments progress. We will have full coverage tonight on Eyewitness News at 6 on WUTR.