Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Matriarch of Alleged Killer Church Cult Sentenced in Teen’s Fatal Beating, Thirty Years in Captivity - One woman’s escape from a London cult

Matriarch of Alleged Killer Church Cult Sentenced in Teen’s Fatal Beating
By Chris Harris December 7, 2016
The matriarch of a small religious sect that former members insist is a cult will spend the next two years in jail for her role in the prolonged, deadly beatings of two teenage brothers who tried to leave the group, PEOPLE confirms.

Traci Irwin, 50, was sentenced on Monday after pleading guilty in Oneida County Court in New York to two counts of felony unlawful imprisonment.

Irwin was charged, along with eight other members of the Word of Life Church, with the fatal beating of Lucas Leonard. The 19-year-old was savagely whipped and battered intermittently over a 12-hour period inside the church, which is located in New Hartford, New York — a suburb of Utica.

Lucas’ brother, 17-year-old Christopher Leonard, was also attacked in the Oct. 11, 2015, incident, but survived with numerous injuries.

The church’s 29-year-old pastor, Traci’s daughter Tiffanie Irwin, also participated in the beatings, as did the boys’ parents, Deborah and Bruce Leonard, and the brothers’ half-sister, Sarah Ferguson....

All told, nine people were indicted for their roles in the attack. Eight defendants accepted deals from the prosecution. Only Ferguson stood trial; she was convicted in July of manslaughter and assault and was sentenced to 25 years....

Thirty Years in Captivity
One woman’s escape from a London cult.

By Simon Parkin   December 3, 2016

Rosie grew up in a succession of decrepit houses in South London with one man and a rotating cast of women, who claimed that they had found her on the streets as an infant. The man, Aravindan Balakrishnan—Comrade Bala, as he wanted to be called—was the head of the household. He instructed the women to deny Rosie’s existence to outsiders, and forbade them from comforting her when she cried. “Balakrishnan told us that lesbianism was caused when females cuddle female babies,” one of the women, Aisha Wahab, told me recently. “No one dared show affection.”

Rosie was not registered with local authorities, health-care providers, or schools. As a child, she often stood by a window, hoping that passersby would notice her. Once, after she exchanged greetings with the granddaughter of an elderly neighbor through a hole in the garden fence, Balakrishnan warned her that the girl intended to lure her away to be held hostage. He regularly lost his temper with Rosie, beating her and threatening to kill her. Sometimes, after an argument, she would retreat to the bathroom, to check whether the toilet still flushed. “When it worked, I kissed the handle,” Rosie, who is now thirty-three, recalled earlier this year. “I told it, ‘Thank you for being on my side.’ ”

One day in 1995, when Rosie was twelve, Balakrishnan showed her an identification card from the hospital where she was born. In a box marked “relationship to child,” Sian Davies, one of the women living in the house, had written “mother.” The revelation sat strangely in Rosie’s mind; at the time, she explained, she “didn’t have a concept of parents.” ...

Balakrishnan, meanwhile, is serving a twenty-three-year prison sentence, having been found guilty, late last year, of child cruelty, false imprisonment, and sexual assault against two women....

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