Apr 12, 2016

Garments at center of hearing in Word of Life case

PRE-TRIAL HEARING — Sarah Ferguson, charged with murder in the Word of Life Church case, was in County Court this morning for a pre-trial hearing to examine evidence ahead of her upcoming trial.

Rome Sentinel
April 7, 2016

The first of eight pre-trial hearings for the Word of Life Church murder case was held in County Court this morning to discuss one defendant’s clothing.

Eight men and women have been charged in the Oct. 12 beating death of Lucas Leonard at the secluded New Hartford church. All eight are headed to trial later this year, and will hold pre-trial hearings this month and next to examine statements and evidence, to determine whether or not they can be used at trial.

Sarah Ferguson, 33, was the subject of this morning’s hearing examining her clothing from the night of the homicide. Ferguson is charged with murder, manslaughter, assault and gang assault in the death of her step-brother Lucas Leonard, and the attack on her other step-brother Christopher Leonard. Authorities have said that eight members of the Word of Life Church attacked the brothers during an overnight counseling session between Oct. 11 and 12 at the church.

Authorities said Lucas, age 19, was killed, and Christopher, age 17, was hospitalized.

Today’s hearing examined whether or not law enforcers were acting under a proper search warrant when they seized Ferguson’s clothing on the day she was taken into custody. The clothing was later sent away for forensic testing. Several officers from the New Hartford Police Department testified about applying for and receiving the search warrant, and then securing Ferguson’s clothing. Judge Michael L. Dwyer said he will determine at a later date whether the proper procedures were followed.


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