Traci Irwin gets two years in Word of Life case

Utica, NY - Traci Irwin, the matriarch of the Word of Life Church in Chadwicks, was sentenced in Oneida County Court on Monday to one year in jail for each of the two counts of criminal imprisonment she pleaded guilty to in October. With time already served, Traci Irwin would be released from the Oneida County Jail in March 2017.

The sentencing was often heated as defense attorney Frank Policelli clashed with Oneida County Judge Michael Dwyer on the very issue of the sentencing. In October, Traci Irwin and her son Daniel both pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal imprisonment, one count each for Lucas and Christopher Leonard. The pleas entered were Alford Pleas, where by the defendant does not admit to the criminal act, maintains their innocence but agrees that the evidence against them could convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt of their guilt.

Teenage brothers Lucas and Christopher Leonard were the victims of a severe beating administered at the Word of Life Church during a counseling session” following a church service. Lucas died as a result of his injuries and Christopher spent time in a hospital intensive care unit. The Leonard brother’s half-sister, Sarah Ferguson, was convicted of manslaughter and several counts of assault in a bench trial this past summer. Ferguson was the only person, from among the nine who were charged in the incident, to go to trial. Bruce and Deborah Leonard, parents of the victims, both took plea deals that included assault charges in return for testimony against other defendants. Among the others who taken pleas in the case are the church pastor, Tiffanie Irwin, her brothers and two other church members. They are yet to be sentenced.

Traci Irwin told Judge Dwyer that she had no knowledge that the Leonard brothers were being beaten on the night of October 11, 2015 in the church on Oneida Street. Attorney Policelli told Dwyer that he was sentencing an innocent person. Judge Dwyer said that he didn’t believe that there was a person in the building who didn’t know what was going on.

Kystal Leonard, older sister of Lucas and Christopher Leonard, made a victim impact statement and showed a video of the Leonard family together in happier times. In his presentation, Policelli told the court that the Leonard family gave a new definition to dysfunctional.

Daniel Irwin, son of Traci, will be sentenced on the same charges as his mother on Friday.