UTICA, N.Y.: The pastor of an insular New York church where a young man was beaten to death and his younger brother seriously injured was among eight 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.
The indictment charges all but Daniel Irwin with second-degree murder in the Oct. 12 death of 19-year-old Lucas Leonard. All eight face charges of manslaughter, kidnapping, assault and gang assault for the attacks on Lucas Leonard and his 17-year-old brother, who survived.
Joseph and Tiffanie Irwin pleaded not guilty Tuesday and their cases were adjourned until Dec. 7. The others were expected in court Wednesday.
Police initially charged six people, including both of the victims’ parents, but the pastor and her mother were not among them.
The church has existed for as many as 30 years in a rural part of New Hartford, a town of 22,000 people about 50 miles from Syracuse.