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Animals rescued from trash-strewn home of parents charged in church beating

NEW YORK -- The upstate New York home of a couple arrested and charged with beating their teenage sons -- one fatally -- left behind a filthy, garbage-strewn house with seemingly neglected dogs kept in cages, an animal advocate who rescued them said on Sunday.

"Conditions in the house were abhorrent; it smelled to knock you out," said Kimberly Strong, founder of Lainey's Army, an animal advocacy group based in central New York.

Teen killed in "Word of Life" beating may have tried to leave church

She told The Associated Press that the two members of the Word of Life Christian Church now under arrest - the teenagers' parents, Bruce and Deborah Leonard - kept four neglected dogs, three birds and several cats in and around their home. Feces and urine were everywhere, she said.

Strong said neighbors concerned about the animals called earlier this week and she alerted authorities. On Thursday, a few days after the couple was arrested and charged - she walked through the home with Clayville animal control officer Gordon Chafee and a New York state trooper, she said.

New York State Police did not return calls for comment on why authorities did not make arrangements for the animals earlier.

"I saw a female dog running loose with a big macaw and the cats," she said. "And I saw a Rottweiler and a beagle locked in basement cages."

NY church members charged with beating teens at "counseling session"

Strong told the Syracuse Post-Standard, where the article first appeared, she believed the home's condition predates the couple's arrest.

"That's not a one-day thing," she told the paper. "That's not a one-week thing."

Chafee said it was plain to see the animals needed help. But also, he said, there was "trash everywhere" in the home.

"It was a terrible experience," Chafee said. "I don't see how human beings could live in this house, because it was just so unhealthy. And the smell of urine made my eyes smart."

All of the animals are now in foster care, said Strong.

The arrests in New Hartford, an upstate town of 22,000 people, have thrown a spotlight on a regimented and insular church that operated from a red-brick former school that also served as a communal home for several members.

Bruce and Deborah Leonard face charges - including manslaughter - for brutally beating their two sons in the sanctuary of Word of Life Christian Church on Oct. 11. Their son, Lucas Leonard, 19, died from his injuries.

His brother, 17-year-old Christopher Leonard was hospitalized, but was released today, and it was reported that he will testify against two of the suspects in a hearing set for Wednesday involving his sister and one other man.

Four others face charges in the deadly brawl that police said arose out of a "counseling session" that may have been related to Lucas Leonard wanting to leave the church.

All six have pleaded not guilty.

Bruce Leonard's attorney said prosecutors hadn't proved the couple intended serious injuries to their son.