Word of Life: Sister of Victims Speaks Sex Abuse


Another day of testimony in the Word of Life Case, today, a closer look at what happened behind the walls of the Leonard household.

 In the eyes of her younger brother, Sarah Ferguson was his tormentor-

” If you had to rank who hit you the most- who hit you the most with the cord… Sarah.” Christopher Leonard said answering D.A. Scott McNamara’s question.

However to her younger sister, she’s the person who saved her life.

“When you say protect, protect you from who? My two brothers Lucas and Christopher. “

Grace Leonard took the stand today, the young girl described years of sexual abuse at the hands of her brothers, acts she confided in Sarah and Pastor Tiffiane Irwin a year before the fatal counseling session.

She recalls sex abuse in her definition” being touched when you do not wish to be touched” as early as age 5, Lucas would have been 10 at the time.

 Although she revealed both of her brothers touched her breast and private area, neither penetrated her.

The alleged attacks were spread over a period of time, which she said had vanished for over a year. That until age 14, when Lucas admitted he had watched her shower.

Scared and confused, Grace told her parish pastor. She never told her parents Bruce and Deborah Leonard what had happened. They currently are both waiting to testify as part of their plea deals in this case.

Pastor Tiffianie advised Leonard to move into the attic of their Clayville, NY home,living along with Sarah and her children. Testimony today describing how Ferguson went through large measure to keep the kids isolated from Lucas and Christopher.

” I think they were padlocks, and were they on the outside or the inside. there were some regular put the key in the lock locks on the other side. ” Leonard said.

After items in the attic appeared out of place she says again she felt panicked. She again tells Irwin, who then approached Lucas directly during a church service.

“I think she told him to stand up and asked him why he wanted to leave the church- and did your brother respond. Yes. Do you remember what your brothers response was. Yes he said he wanted to leave the church so he could molest little girls without getting caught.”

The Leonard family was asked to remain at the church were the questions turned violent, leading to the several hour beatings.

Grace Leonard laid out the alleged time line of events. (Listed Below)

-Sunday church service begins in the small sanctuary due to heating concerns. This lesson had strong themes of witchcraft.

-Church Service Ends. Leonard family is asked to stay behind.

– Pastor Tiffanie begins to question Bruce and Deborah about code violations. The group then turns focus to the Lucas and Christopher. They begin asking about the sexual abuse claims and rumors they are looking to leave the church.

– The boys answer to an extent. Grace becomes frustrated and begs her brothers to start telling the truth. She is the first to punch her brother Christopher on his back.

– Defendant Joe Irwin then begins his three second countdown. Each time the boys failed to answer, he allegedly would punch and kick them.

– Deborah Leonard joins the beatings, hitting the boys on the chest with her fists saying “How dare you. Those are your nieces and my grandchildren.”

– The boys begin to make admissions.

– Defendant Linda Morey enters the room with the extension cord. She hands the cord to Deborah.

– The whipping was a pattern. Question, Whipping, Question, Whipping. Alternating between the boys.

-Defendant Bruce Leonard allegedly joins the whipping saying ” You lied to me, you were pretending.”

– Sarah picks up the extension cord. Grace stops watching but estimates Sarah hits them over 20 times.

– Grace leaves to use the bathroom, comes back to find Christopher in the large sanctuary with headphones on. Says they were separated so they would not influence each others stories.

– She overhears a meeting, where Bruce is inspecting the condition of the boys, says no more hitting on the chest and back.

– Grace leaves to go pray in the sanctuary. She can still hear the session through the wall where Bruce and Tiffanie continuing questioning.

– Lucas is brought into the large sanctuary on a tarp. Bruce and Deborah are called into the room.

-Grace recalls it now being morning, Lucas wasn’t moving and Christopher and Traci begin CPR.

-Everyone leaves for the hospital, Grace remains at the church with Linda Morey and Sarah.

– Grace remains at the church until police arrive.

“Was there a reason you left the small sanctuary and went to the nursery? I was praying . What specifically were you praying for? My brothers to tell the truth. Why? Because if they had told the truth they wouldn’t have gotten beaten.

Proceedings in the Word of Life case will continue tomorrow morning. Judge Michael Dwyer hinted that it would be a longer day- we’ll bring you that coverage right here on WUTR.

Be sure to follow Eyewitness News Anchor Angie Pavlovsky on Twitter for live updates during court proceedings.


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