A week ago last Sunday, Irwin, 29, now the pastor, stood before part of her congregation in New Hartford, New York, and accused someone among them of practicing witchcraft, a witness told the police. Lucas Leonard, 19, said he was the one. The secretive group had dwindled in numbers since. Irwin took over after her father’s death in 2012, and the authorities said she feared that Leonard would be the latest to defect.
Irwin summoned him into a counseling session, where the authorities said he was punched, kicked and whipped with an electrical cord for more than 12 hours until he died. His parents have been charged with manslaughter in the attack, which also left his brother Christopher Leonard, 17, seriously injured.
Irwin’s brother, Joseph Irwin, a deacon in the church, is among four other members charged with assault.
Tiffanie Irwin has not been charged, but a prosecutor said the investigation into her role was continuing. The police and prosecutors have dismissed the suggestions of witchcraft as a rumor “instigated by a member or members” of the church.
Leonard’s death has pulled a veil from a church that for two decades has hidden what former members describe as a culture of shame, abuse and paranoia, spread by leaders who exposed congregants’ supposed dalliances, split their families and coaxed them into long hours of physical labor.
Some pics at link as well as the story. This is not some cheap storefront or backwoods shack sort of church. There is money there.