Oct 7, 2016

2 more Word of Life defendants plead guilty, facing 2 years in jail

October 7, 2016

UTICA, N.Y. –  Mother and son defendants in the Word of Life fatal beating case entered guilty pleas on Friday to reduced charges.
   Traci and Daniel Irwin, originally charged with murder and manslaughter, respectively, each pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful imprisonment; one for 19-year-old Lucas Leonard, who died in the beating inside Word of Life Church in Chadwicks last fall, and one for his 17-year-old brother, Christopher, who survived the assault. The agreed-upon sentence: a total of two years in the Oneida County Jail for each victim, with credit for time served.  While a gag order still prevents all the attorneys from speaking to the media, Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara revealed his thinking during the plea process in court.
   "There's no evidence whatsoever that either one of these two defendants touched, struck or in any way caused any injuries to either of these young men.....Traci Irwin was not even present at the counseling session," said McNamara.
    The Irwins entered Alford pleas, meaning that they did not have to acnowledge taking part in specific acts.  The D.A., however, was specific in outlining evidence which he believes would have persuaded a jury or judge as to their guilt at trial.
   "We also intend to call an expert witness who's very common in these authoritative groups some people like to call cults that Tiffanie was the religious leader and that she was infallible and this was repeated and reinforced throughout years," said McNamara, adding, "It's an analogy that our expert said, it's like putting a frog in the water and turning the heat up gradually; the frog doesn't know it's being cooked."
  McNamara read in open court what the prosecution identified as text messages between Daniel Irwin and his brother, co-defendant Joseph Irwin, in which the two seem to show more regard for a chair in the church than for Lucas Leonard's life.
   "Joe says, 'why didn't he get the chair?'   Daniel said, 'So he didn't soil the chair,'"  relayed McNamara.
    Traci Irwin shook her head, "no," as McNamara spoke.  When the judge asked Traci Irwin if she felt the evidence against her would have likely persuaded a jury of her guilt, Irwin was defiant in her response.
   "If they were to believe lies, then, yes," said Traci Irwin.
    Traci Irwin will be sentenced December 5;  her son, Daniel Irwin, December 9. Still pending are the cases against church members Linda Morey and her son, David Morey, Pastor Tiffanie Irwin and her brother, Joseph Irwin. The judge said that if any more cases are going to be resolved through pleas, it should happen in the next two weeks.

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