NEW HARTFORD, N.Y. (KRON) – Church members have told police that a counseling session that escalated into a fatal beating of a teenager began as a discussion of his desire to leave the upstate New York congregation.
New Hartford Police Chief Michael Inserra said Friday that congregants explained that was the reason the session was called Oct. 11 at the Word of Life Christian Church. But Inserra says police “still have not concluded why the session turned so violent.”
Family members took Lucas Leonard, 19, by car Monday afternoon to a hospital in nearby Utica. An autopsy showed Leonard suffered multiple contusions from blunt force trauma to the torso and extremities, Inserra said.
New Hartford police said Leonard was injured during an assault and was pronounced dead Monday at the hospital.
17-year-old brother, Christopher, was seriously injured after both were beaten for hours. He was hospitalized in serious condition after suffering blunt force trauma injuries also, police said.
The assaults occurred after a Sunday night service at the church, which is located about 250 miles north of New York City. The congregation held what Inserra called a “counseling session” for the two brothers.
“Both brothers were continually subjected to physical punishment over the course of several hours in the hopes that each would confess to prior sins and ask for forgiveness,” he said.
The teens’ sister and three other people have been charged with assault.
All have pleaded not guilty in court.
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