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Man convicted in Word of Life case released from state prison

Sean I. Mills
Staff writer
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Posted 9/27/22

Another member of the Word of Life church convicted in the beating death of a young teenager has been released on parole from state prison.

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Man convicted in Word of Life case released from state prison

Posted

NEW HARTFORD — Another member of the Word of Life church convicted in the beating death of a young teenager has been released on parole from state prison, according to the New York State Department of Corrections.

Joseph Irwin, age 29, was released from state prison on Monday after serving nearly six years of his eight-year sentence on charges of second-degree assault and first-degree gang assault, state records show.

Irwin is the fourth member of the church to be released from state prison so far.

According to authorities and trial testimony, Irwin was among nine people charged in the beating death of 19-year-old Lucas Leonard at the secluded Word of Life Church in New Hartford on Oct. 11, 2015. Leonard and his brother, Christopher, were the focus of a counseling session at the church regarding accusations that they had sexually abused several other children in the church.

Authorities said then-Pastor Tiffanie Irwin led the counseling session, which turned physical when Linda Morey took an electrical cord out of a closet and the brothers' parents — Bruce and Deborah Leonard, and their half-sister, Sarah Ferguson —  whipped them both repeatedly.

Joseph Irwin and David Morey kept the brothers in the room during the whippings, prosecutors said, and Joseph Irwin struck one of the brothers during the counseling session.

Prosecutors said the Leonard brothers were then held at the church for several hours, despite their severe wounds. Lucas Leonard later died from his injuries and Christopher was hospitalized for a week.

Other defendants:

• Traci Irwin was released from the Oneida County jail in March 2017.

• Daniel Irwin was also only sentenced to the county jail, and was also released in March 2017.

• Deborah Leonard, age 66, was released on parole on Jan. 16, 2020.

• Linda Morey, age 61, was released on parole on Feb. 27, 2020.

• David Morey, age 33, was also released on parole on Feb. 27, 2020.

• Bruce Leonard, age 72, remains in custody, with an earliest parole date of May 2024.

• Tiffanie Irwin, age 36, remains in custody, and her earliest parole date is in March 2026.

• Sarah Ferguson, age 40, remains in custody, and her earliest parole date is in March 2037.

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