New York parents charged in church beating death of teen

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Parents, Church Members Arrested in Beating Death of Teen

(Reuters) -- The parents of a New York teenager were charged on Tuesday with his beating death inside an upstate church, and four church members were accused of assaulting the couple's younger son, police said.

Lucas Leonard, 19, died of blunt force trauma to his body after being attacked inside the Word of Life Church in New Hartford, New York, about 50 miles (80 kms) east of Syracuse, authorities said.

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Upstate New York church killing, Lucas Leonard - crime scene photos
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New York parents charged in church beating death of teen
The Word of Life church is seen on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in New Hartford, N.Y. Two teenage brothers were brutally beaten in the church on Sunday, one fatally, in an effort by their parents, sister and other members to get them to confess their sins, police said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Police walk outside the Word of Life church on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in New Hartford, N.Y. Bruce and Deborah Leonard have been charged in the beating death of their son, Lucas, and the severe beating of his 17-year-old brother, Christopher, inside the church on Sunday. Four other adults were charged with assault in the younger brother's beating, including Sarah Ferguson, 33, the victims' sister. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
The Leonard family residence is seen on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in Clayville, N.Y. Bruce and Deborah Leonard have been charged in the beating death of their 19-year-old son, Lucas, and the severe beating of his 17-year-old brother, at the nearby Word of Life church on Sunday. Four other adults were charged with assault in the younger brother's beating, including Sarah Ferguson, 33, the victims' sister. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Map locates New Hartford, N.Y.; 1c x 3 inches; 46.5 mm x 76 mm;
The Leonard family residence is seen on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in Clayville, N.Y. Bruce and Deborah Leonard have been charged in the beating death of their 19-year-old son, Lucas, and the severe beating of his 17-year-old brother, at the nearby Word of Life church on Monday. Four other adults were charged with assault in the younger brother's beating, including Sarah Ferguson, 33, the victims' sister. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
A school bus passes the Word of Life church on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in New Hartford, N.Y. Two teenage brothers were brutally beaten in the church on Sunday, one fatally, in an effort by their parents, sister and other members to get them to confess their sins, police said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Valerie Giannatelli walks past the Word of Life church with children from her daycare center on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in New Hartford, N.Y. Bruce and Deborah Leonard have been charged in the beating death of their son, Lucas, and the severe beating of his 17-year-old brother, Christopher, inside the church on Sunday. Four other adults were charged with assault in the younger brother's beating, including Sarah Ferguson, 33, the victims' sister. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Police talk to a man through a fence while serving paperwork at the Word of Life church on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in New Hartford, N.Y. Bruce and Deborah Leonard have been charged in the beating death of their son, Lucas, and the severe beating of his 17-year-old brother, Christopher, inside the church on Sunday. Four other adults were charged with assault in the younger brother's beating, including Sarah Ferguson, 33, the victims' sister. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
The Word of Life church is seen on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in New Hartford, N.Y. Two teenage brothers were brutally beaten in the church on Sunday, one fatally, in an effort by their parents, sister and other members to get them to confess their sins, police said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Police knock on the door of the Word of Life church while serving paperwork on a church member, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in New Hartford, N.Y. Bruce and Deborah Leonard have been charged in the beating death of their son, Lucas, and the severe beating of his 17-year-old brother, Christopher, inside the church on Sunday. Four other adults were charged with assault in the younger brother's beating, including Sarah Ferguson, 33, the victims' sister. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
New Hartford Police Chief Michael Inserra speaks about a fatal beating of a 19-year-old inside the Word of Life church during an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in New Hartford, N.Y. Bruce and Deborah Leonard have been charged in the beating death of their son, Lucas, and the severe beating of his 17-year-old brother, Christopher, inside the church on Sunday. Four other adults were charged with assault in the younger brother's beating, including Sarah Ferguson, 33, the victims' sister. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Police walk outside the Word of Life church on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in New Hartford, N.Y. Bruce and Deborah Leonard have been charged in the beating death of their son, Lucas, and the severe beating of his 17-year-old brother, Christopher, inside the church on Sunday. Four other adults were charged with assault in the younger brother's beating, including Sarah Ferguson, 33, the victims' sister. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
People attend a candlelight vigil in honor Lucas Leonard and Christopher Leonard, two teenagers brothers who were beaten during a church counseling session, at St. Patrick St. Anthony Church in Chadwicks, N.Y., Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Lucas Leonard died in the attack at the Word of Life Christian Church in the central New York town of New Hartford. (Tina Russel/Observer-Dispatch via AP, Pool)
The crowd chants songs during a candlelight vigil in honor of Lucas Leonard and Christopher Leonard, two teenagers brothers who were beaten during a church counseling session, at St. Patrick St. Anthony Church in Chadwicks, N.Y., Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Lucas Leonard died in the attack at the Word of Life Christian Church in the central New York town of New Hartford. (Tina Russel/Observer-Dispatch via AP, Pool)
Lauryn Johns signs a banner during a candlelight vigil in honor of Lucas Leonard and Christopher Leonard, two teenagers brothers who were beaten during a church counseling session, at St. Patrick St. Anthony Church in Chadwicks, N.Y., Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Lucas Leonard died in the attack at the Word of Life Christian Church in the central New York town of New Hartford. (Tina Russel/Observer-Dispatch via AP, Pool)
Laura Petrilli, left, and Bianca Petrilli attend a candlelight vigil in honor of Lucas Leonard and Christopher Leonard, two teenagers brothers who were beaten during a church counseling session, at St. Patrick St. Anthony Church in Chadwicks, N.Y., Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Lucas Leonard died in the attack at the Word of Life Christian Church in the central New York town of New Hartford. (Tina Russel/Observer-Dispatch via AP, Pool)
Charlie Sherman plays a guitar and sings during a candlelight vigil in honor of Lucas Leonard and Christopher Leonard, two teenagers brothers who were beaten during a church counseling session, at St. Patrick St. Anthony Church in Chadwicks, N.Y., Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Lucas Leonard died in the attack at the Word of Life Christian Church in the central New York town of New Hartford. (Tina Russel/Observer-Dispatch via AP, Pool)
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A joint investigation by the New Hartford police and the New York State Police determined that a second victim, Leonard's 17-year-old brother had also been assaulted. He was in serious condition at a local hospital, a press release said.

"Several church members were interviewed throughout the day and night, and several children were secured from the church and turned over to Oneida County Child Protective Services," it said. Police have not released a motive for the attack.

A woman who lives near the church, Julie Howard, told local broadcaster WKTV "there's always been weird things going on." She said this included visits by the police and what she described as the breeding of dogs in the building.

Police did not say whether they had visited the church before.

The victims' parents, Bruce Leonard, 65, and Deborah Leonard, 59 were arraigned on Tuesday on manslaughter charges and pleaded not guilty. They were being held in lieu of $100,000 bail, each.

Four other church members were charged with assault in connection with the attack on the younger victim, police said.

It was unclear how the four church members pleaded to the assault charges or if they had obtained attorneys.

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