PLEA OFFER REJECTED — Word of Life church Pastor Tiffanie Irwin exits court today after rejecting a plea offer from the District Attorney’s Office. Irwin is the the first of eight members to appear in court this week and next; she rejected an offer from the DA to plead guilty to the top charge filed against her. (Sentinel photo by Sean I. Mills)

Word of Life pastor rejects offer

Published Jan 11, 2016 at 4:00pm

Word of Life church Pastor Tiffanie Irwin rejected a plea offer from the District Attorney’s Office this morning — the first of eight members to appear in court this week and next.

Irwin’s appearance before Judge Michael L. Dwyer today began a week’s worth of hearings for all eight church members still charged in the beating death of Lucas Leonard.

All eight defendants will decide whether to accept or reject the offer from the District Attorney.

Irwin, 29, turned it down, and will take her case to trial.

“We asked for a plea to the highest charge,” explained District Attorney Scott D. McNamara. “It’s not a situation where we’re offering her a deal to get her to plead guilty.”

McNamara said it was a not a plea bargain. He said if Irwin wanted to plead guilty, she would have to plea to the highest charge — second-degree murder — and accept a sentence of at least 18 years to life in prison, the minimum sentence for murder. 

Irwin is scheduled to reappear in court for motion argument on Feb. 8. Along with murder, she is charged with manslaughter, gang assault, kidnapping and more. 

Authorties said on the night of Oct. 11, Irwin led a “counseling session” at the secluded New Hartford church in regards to brothers Lucas and Christopher Leonard.

Authorities said Irwin and the other defendants beat on the two brothers for several hours, until Lucas died from his injuries. Christopher survived and was hospitalized. 

Traci Irwin, Joseph Irwin, Daniel Irwin, Sarah Ferguson, David Morey and Linda Morey are all scheduled to appear this week. The brothers’ father, Bruce Leonard, is scheduled to appear next week. Their mother, Deborah Leonard, has already pleaded guilty to felony asault.