Word of Life Church victim testifies against sister in court

Sarah Ferguson stands in court during a hearing, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, in New Hartford, N.Y. Bruce Leonard and his wife Deborah Leonard have been charged with fatally beating their 19-year-old son inside a church, while Ferguson is one four fellow church members who have been charged with assault in an attack that also left the young man's brother severely injured. (Tina Russell/Observer-Dispatch via AP, Pool)

NEW HARTFORD, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The teenage boy, who survived a brutal beating in a Western New York church, was in court on Wednesday to testify against his own sister.

Christopher Leonard, 17, entered a New Hartford Court courtroom on Wednesday. He had bruises, cuts and lashing marks covering his body. He said he received his wounds when his family and church members struck him for hours with a black electrical cord.

Leonard was there to testify against his sister, 33-year-old Sarah Ferguson, who was accused of the alleged beating.

As Ferguson entered the courtroom, she kept her head down and did not look up at her brother. Leonard spoke in a soft voice with his head down as he described the brutal beating at the Word of Life Church.

Leonard said he went to the church the afternoon of Sunday, October 11. When the service ended around 8 p.m. that night, Leonard said the pastor asked him and his brother, 19-year-old Lucas Leonard, to stay after and answer questions about what they had done.

When the two refused to answer the questions, Leonard said he was punched and beat with a black electrical cord in the stomach, back, arms, chest, and private area by Ferguson; his parents, Deborah and Bruce Leonard; and three other church members.

Leonard said he was then put in a larger sanctuary in the church and told to wear ear plugs. He said his family and church members then continued to beat his brother, who later died from his injuries at the hospital.

Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara said the beating was because the brothers wanted to leave the church. McNamara said Leonard is a brave, young man.

“You know, we asked a lot of a very young man to go in, very soft spoken, and I would reiterate what I just said,” McNamara said. “We asked him to do something. It’s very difficult for anybody to do and I commend him for his courage.”

Leonard said his Lucas collapsed, and he tried to give him CPR. Lucas was taken by the accused in a van and died. Leonard said he was taken back to the church where he vomited and did not get help until police arrived.

Three church members are out on bail, but Ferguson and Leonard’s parents remain in jail. More charges could follow.

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