State Police: ‘Those Responsible Will Be Held Accountable’
Very few additional details have been learned since Wednesday's press conference about the Word of Life Church beating death in Chadwicks, New York.
WIBX First News with Keeler spoke with two members of the New York State Police who, along with New Hartford Police, are actively involved in the investigation into the death of Lucas Leonard and the assault of his brother Christopher Leonard, allegedly at the hands of their parents, a half-sister, and three others.
Major Coots says, "There (are) a number of leads that are still being followed..." Law enforcement agencies are assisting in the investigative efforts of Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara and First Assistant District Attorney Dawn Catera Lupi in the case.
As to whether victim Lucas Leonard was being "counseled," as several within the church have called the beating of the 19-year-old, for a molestation-type offense Coots say they have absolutely no evidence to support that allegation.
Trooper Keller says that they are keeping in touch with the hospital but the injuries of the second victim, 17-year-old Christopher Leonard, are "substantial." As of this posting he was listed in serious condition. They could not confirm that he was put in a medically-induced coma.
Coots says that he has been in law enforcement for 33 years. This is, he says, one of the worst cases he has ever seen.
Law enforcement cannot attempt to "close down" the church, as some have suggested, for several reasons. First, the beatings, or "counseling sessions," have not been confirmed as church practice. The Word of Life Church was merely the scene of the crime, not necessarily the cause of it.
Second, the First Amendment guarantees Americans the right to freedom of religion. And, although some have questioned whether or not this particular church is actually a cult or cult-like, there is no evidence to support that its leadership is responsible for the crimes committed. Parishioners, if they so choose, have the right to continue to worship there.
Coots says, however, that there is no changing the fact that Lucas Leonard was nineteen years old "...but he's still a child, and he's still their child. And he's no longer on the face of the Earth... And it's because of certain people's actions that caused this death... I can assure you speaking to Scott McNamara, speaking to (New Hartford Police) Chief (Michael) Inserra yesterday....that the people that are responsible will be held accountable. And even though we won't be able to bring this child back maybe we can prevent someone else from being injured."
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