Dec 7, 2016

Traci Irwin Sentenced for Role in Word of Life Beatings

TWC News

By Melissa Krull
Monday, December 5, 2016


UTICA, N.Y. -- Word of Life Church member Traci Irwin, who pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful imprisonment in the first degree, has been sentenced to one year for each count.

At the start of her court appearance, an older sister of victims Lucas and Christopher Leonard took a few minutes to reflect on the loss of her brother, and played a family video.

"My dad often called me the 'eldest,' " the sister said. "Never once did I imagine that being the eldest would mean that I would have the responsibility of signing my brother's death certificate."

Prosecutors say Irwin may not have been present during the beatings, but she was aware of and had a role in directing them.

"She absolutely knew. Her son was telling her. Her son, Joseph," said Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara. "I forget what one of the texts was, but he actually referred to Lucas as some sort of a dog."

In court, the defense maintained that Irwin is innocent and didn't know the beatings were taking place.

"... Nobody said that there was any violence, and what happened was a spontaneous act of violence by members of a church. Well, you don't make the whole church liable," said defense attorney Frank Policelli.

However, Judge Michael Dwyer said Irwin may have been able to prevent the beatings.

"You can paint it anyway you want, and she can do the same. There was no one in that building that didn't know what was going on, and I read the grand jury minutes, and I'm sure of it," Dwyer said.

"Well, we don't try people in the grand jury. We try people in trial," Policelli countered. "If there was a trial, she would've been found not guilty if she got a fair trial and a fair jury."

"That's your opinion," said Dwyer, to which Policelli responded, "Absolutely is."

Traci Irwin had a chance to address the court. She started by thanking the judge, and saying she's been able to connect with others.

"You have allowed me to walk with them, to share the pain and the despair of being told that your life is worth nothing," Irwin said, ending by reiterating her innocence.

"I had no knowledge, and if I had, things would've been very different if I had," she continued. "If I had five minutes of my life, with all the tragedy that's happened to me in my life, if I had five minutes to redo something, I would choose five minutes right there to save Luke."

"When you allow your children to play with human beings like they're toys, that's a problem, and she did that," said McNamara.

Irwin's son, Daniel, is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday. According to her attorney, Traci Irwin will be released in early 2017 because she has already spent time behind bars.


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