A book about a cult killing in upstate New York is launching Ontario resident Susan Ashline’s career as a true crime author. Pegasus Books acquired her book, “Without a Prayer,” for publication in summer 2019.
“Without a Prayer” is the story of Lucas Leonard, 19, who was beaten to death by parishioners inside Word of Life Christian Church in a small community outside of Utica. The October 2015 crime made headlines around the world. “Without a Prayer” tells of the teenager’s death — and life — as it goes deep inside the cult, revealing the leaders’ hold on their followers.
“I’m fascinated by true crime stories, and the ‘Without a Prayer’ proposal blew me away,” said Katie McGuire, editor at Pegasus Books. “It sounded exactly like a book I and other true crime aficionados would devour. I really admire Susan’s deep dive into the story beyond the headlines, how she was able to connect with the people around Lucas and those directly involved with the case to present both the public and the personal faces of this senseless tragedy.”
Leonard’s parents and sister were among nine people sentenced in connection with his death. The other defendants were members of the church and the Irwin family that ran the church, who either participated in the beating death or did nothing to stop it.
Ashline, who has lived in Ontario for 20 years, is a former Rochester TV and radio news reporter. Her role as a court correspondent sparked an interest in law and the judicial process. Ashline’s journalism career received major awards, including an Emmy nomination for a public broadcasting societal concerns program and a first-place Associated Press award for general excellence in individual reporting.
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