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Community Gathers For Lucas Leonard Vigil


A week after the brutal beating of two teenage boys at a church in New Hartford, outside Utica, the community gathered Tuesday night for a candlelight vigil.

About 150 people gathered Tuesday night just outside the Word Of Life Church.

They came together to reflect and to pray for Lucas Leonard, who was beaten to death, and his brother Christopher, who is recovering from his injuries. Their parents, Deborah and Bruce Leonard, have been charged with manslaughter.

Father Abraham Esper is the pastor of the Catholic Church, St. Patrick St. Anthony’s, next door. 

“We come together and we put a face on the grief and the fear that we feel right now.” says Fr. Esper.

Elizabeth Richards lives just down the street from Word of Life. She says, “I lost a son many years ago. He was about the same age as Lucas and I just felt like I needed to be here.” 

Fr. Esper says, “And by praying tonight to the god that we all believe in. A God of mercy a God of justice and peace. It will give us strength and direction as we go ahead.” 

Stacey Wendell, who organized the vigil, is pushing to have the church closed. She says, “We’re gonna get this boy justice, we’re gonna get him justice.”  

Those gathered Tuesday prayed not only for justice but also peace for the surviving brother, Christopher, who now faces his own grief, and the ordeal of a trial of his parents.


Kevin Montano is with the New York Reporting Project at Utica College at www.nyrp-uc.org

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