Without a Prayer: The Death of Lucas Leonard and How One Church Became a Cult

Pegasus. Aug. 2019. 400p. photos. ISBN 9781643130729. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781643131863. CRIME
In October 2015, 19-year-old Lucas Leonard was brutally beaten to death by members of his church. Even more horrifying is that his parents took part in the tragedy. Journalist Ashline’s debut details the claustrophobic lives led by members of the Word of Life Christian Church, Chadwicks, NY—and how things turned deadly. The church was originally started by Jerry Irwin, and it wasn’t long before troubling beliefs soon took hold in the small group. After Jerry’s death, Tiffanie Irwin took over as pastor, aided by her family and other loyalist parishioners. She claimed to receive detailed messages from God concerning members’ lives. Services often lasted eight hours, and members were expected to devote significant amounts of time to personal devotions, scripture reading, and prayer, many remaining at the church well past midnight several nights a week. Basing her work on extensive interviews with former churchgoers, as well as police, prosecutors, and public documents, Ashline skillfully unfolds the events in a compassionate, thoughtful voice.
VERDICT Readers interested in true crime and cults will be enthralled by this expertly rendered tale of extremism.

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