When Lucas and Christopher Leonard failed to answer questions during what the police believe was a counseling session at the Word of Life Christian Church on Oct. 11, the two were severely assaulted. Police investigations have accused their parents, Bruce and Deborah, of severely whipping their two sons. The assault resulted in the death of 19-year-old Lucas and critical injuries for 17-year-old Christopher.
“As a caring parent whose children are now 25 and 21 years old, I firmly believe that parents who beat their own children to death should be held accountable for their unjustifiable actions,” said Ronald Slachta, English teacher. “Even if [Bruce and Deborah Leonard] were initially strict parents who had such uncontrollable anger issues, no proper parent should beat up their own children, especially not to the point of death, in any case or situation.”
According to CNN, Bruce and Deborah face the charge of first-degree manslaughter, while four other church members—including Sara Ferguson, the brothers’ stepsister—are charged with second-degree assault and a felony. Despite claims from two different witnesses stating that Bruce and Deborah hit their sons with an electric cord and belt while the other church members held them down, all six members pleaded not guilty.
“Even if the offenders have pleaded not guilty, the court should carry on with this case not only because there is enough evidence, but also because this case should serve as a precedent to prove that such crimes are inexcusable no matter what,” said Sophia Song (10), MUN member. “The situation should be thoroughly investigated and should be mainly based on direct accounts such as Christopher’s statement in court, rather than the accounts of the offenders, who are most likely trying to clear themselves of the charges.”
On Oct. 21, after Christopher was discharged from the hospital, he testified in court against his parents. According to the Guardian, Christopher testified that his injuries to his torso and genitals were from the beating and further clarified that the only cause of the incident was his refusal to answer a few questions during the church session. Due to severe mental trauma and physical injuries, Christopher will be taken into custody under the Oneida County Child Protective Services for the time being.
“Rather than trying to eradicate violence at the national level immediately, we should first start small by implementing programs at the local level,” said Alice Kang (11), Forensics member. “For example, we could set up more hotlines in specific areas known to have past cases of severe violence, or even work on increasing security measures for better prevention. Most importantly, since domestic violence tends to occur quite often in places that are secluded from urban areas, the US should focus on strengthening security and establishing local solutions to help alleviate the problem.”
According to Reuters, the defendants are scheduled to appear again in court on Dec. 15. In addition, district attorney, Scott McNamara claimed that he is seeking a grand jury indictment of the Leonard’s, and also mentioned plans to provide supplementary evidence that could result in additional detainment and charges against those already arrested.