Church member charged in fatal beating pleads not guilty

UTICA, N.Y. (AP) — An upstate New York church leader charged in a group beating that killed one young man and injured his younger brother has pleaded not guilty.

Daniel Irwin was arraigned Monday in Oneida County Court on charges of manslaughter, kidnapping, assault and gang assault. He was charged last week in an indictment that includes more serious murder charges against seven people, including his mother, sister and brother and the victims’ father.

They pleaded not guilty last week.

The family runs the Word of Life Christian Church in New Hartford, where 19-year-old Lucas Leonard and his 17-year-old brother, Christopher, were beaten in October.

Authorities say the teens were kicked, punched and whipped during a counseling session that was called after Lucas Leonard indicated he wanted to leave the church.

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