Will Pastor At Word Of Life Church In Chadwicks Be Prosecuted?
The pastor of the Word of Life Christian Church in Chadwicks where two teenagers were allegedly severely beaten resulting in the death of one and hospitalization of another may face serious charges in the coming weeks.
The name 'Pastor Tiffany' was brought up in eye witness testimony from church member Daniel Irwin - the brother of one of the alleged assailants, Joseph Irwin - a felony exam in New Hartford Town Court last week. On Wednesday, one of the alleged victims, Christopher Leonard, said Pastor Tiffany was responsible for orchestrating the counseling session that got way out of control. While Christopher did not testify that he was struck by Tiffany, he did indicate she was present for the entirety of what authorities say was a multi-hour assault that saw the two brothers punched, kicked and whipped with a cord.
Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara (pictured above) did not mention the pastor by name but said more arrests, and more charges against those who've been arrested, are expected.
''We are looking at everybody that was involved in this incident. We will present everything we have to the grand jury, along with the charges that were originally filed along with any others that we think are appropriate. That would include depraved indifference murder, we will ask the grand jury to consider that, along with gang assault. There are a number of charges that were not initially filed that we will ask the grand jury to consider,'' McNamara said.
When pressed further, McNamara discussed 'accomplice liability', giving the example of a bank robbery where a get-away driver doesn't have to enter the bank and demand money to face charges.
'There are also other ways...when some commands something or they encourage it. So, we'll look at all of those things,' saying the DA's office will present evidence against anyone they believe had a hand in the incident.
He added that the frequent press briefings and interviews will be curtailed as his office will now turn it's focus on presenting a case to a grand jury. They have 45 days to do so, he said, which puts the deadline for presenting the case on or about Thanksgiving. Future releases of information in an official capacity, he said, would come in the form of emailed press releases.
'He's our witness'
When asked to comment on Christopher Leonard's testimony Wednesday, McNamara called the 17-year-old 'courageous' for his ability to testify against his half-sister, and in a room full of local and national media, just days after a such a horrific incident that left him hospitalized and resulted in his brother's death.
'He is the surviving witness to a homicide', the DA said, responding to a question about the importance of the teen's strength to take the witness stand. McNamara also made clear that beyond the initial charges lodged against the six church members, including Deborah and Bruce Leonard, any charges or new arrests going forward would be the result of a grand jury indictment.