Exclusive Look Inside Deadly Word of Life Cult

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In 2015, Lucas Leonard, 19, died after being beaten by members of an Upstate New York cult, the Word of Life Christian Church. Nine individuals were convicted in connection with the crime, including Luke’s mother, father, and sister. The story is told in my book, Without a Prayer: The Death of Lucas Leonard and How One Church Became a Cult

The following are police photos from a search of the Word of Life property after Luke was taken to the hospital dead. 

Word of Life building in Chadwicks, NY. 
The “big sanctuary,” where Luke succumbed to his injuries, inside the Word of Life building.
The “small sanctuary,” where a gang of angry cult members beat brothers Christopher and Lucas Leonard, resulting in Luke’s death. 
The Irwin brothers had a fascination with weapons and war.
The Irwins had, at times, more than 100 animals inside the building. They ran a puppy mill, sold exotic birds, and kept pets of their own. 
Police discovered the Irwins had built an underground shooting range beneath the Word of Life building, where they had been firing high powered guns.
Cult members had built the Irwins a pricey apartment on the third floor of the Word of Life building.
Interior of the Word of Life building.
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Mother and Son Cult Members Exit Prison

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Linda Morey and her son, David, will be freed from prison on Thursday, February 27. They are among nine members of the Word of Life Christian Church (WLCC) convicted in the 2015 beating death of one of its members, 19-year-old Lucas Leonard, the subject of my book, Without a Prayer.

Facing murder charges, the mother and son agreed to plead guilty to second degree assault against Luke and his brother Christopher, who survived the gang attack, in exchange for a sentence of five years in prison and three years on parole. This is ironic, since Linda will presumably move back in with her husband (David’s father), a former parole officer. At the time of the crime, Steven* [pseudonym] was a senior officer for the New York State Department of Corrections, earning a salary of $90,020 a year. Soon after Lucas was killed and his wife and son arrested, he retired. Steven was a member of the central New York cult early on, but dropped out after a couple of years. His daughter Kathleen*, who is three years older than David, remained a loyal Irwin follower until the very end, and was present the night Luke was killed. Kathleen was babysitting children in a nearby room, as Luke was being beaten. She was never charged in connection with the crime. David will most likely not be allowed to move in with his father, because paroled felons are not allowed to live in the same residence.

Linda Morey believed in physical correction and was known to be abusive. In this audio clip, Linda is heard participating in a “counseling session” of a cult member (there are two soundbites from the same counseling session, edited back-to-back).

Linda worked hard to gain the favor of Tiffanie Irwin, the young preacher who led WLCC, and other members of the Irwin family. She would spend up to eight hours a day on her hands and knees cleaning dog excrement in the cult, which ran a dog-breeding business. David Morey was a virtually silent young man, a follower, who became part of the Irwin clan’s inner circle because he palled around with the Irwin boys who were close to his age.

Luke’s beating by the gang of angry WLCC members turned deadly after Linda handed Luke’s parents a computer cord, encouraging them to whip Luke and Chris. And when Luke’s sister Sarah slashed a hole in his penis, causing blood to pour down his pant leg, Linda mocked the fatally wounded boy by saying, “Oh, little boy peed his pants. He ain’t so tough now.”

David’s role was to hold Luke back and push him up against the wall so he could be hit some more. 

 

During questioning by state police investigators, Linda tried to play herself off as a demure, sweet lady, but investigators didn’t buy it.

At her sentencing, she apologized not to the victim’s family, but to her own.

Linda Morey, 58, served her time at Albion Correctional Facility, a medium security prison west of Rochester. David, who turns 31 years old on March 20, was housed in Cayuga Correctional Facility, southwest of Syracuse. A source close to David says David learned a trade while in prison and will work hard to get a job, that he now has his head straight, is “a really good boy, needs some help and guidance.”

As a condition of their parole, the Moreys will not be allowed to associate with individuals with a criminal history. That means they cannot reunite with any of the former cult members who were also charged in this case, including the victim’s mother, Deborah Leonard, who was released from prison last month.

 

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