GHS alumni pens true crime novel


Gloversville — A book about a cult killing in Central New York is launching the true crime author career of Gloversville High School graduate Susan Ashline. Pegasus Books has acquired her book “Without a Prayer” for publication next summer. Ashline currently lives near Rochester.

“Without a Prayer” tells the story of Lucas Leonard, 19, beaten to death by parishioners inside the sanctuary of the 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-and goes deep inside the cult, revealing the leaders’ twisted hold on their followers.

Pegasus Books Editor Katie McGuire tells what hooked her about the book.

“I’m fascinated by true crime stories, and the ‘Without a Prayer’ proposal blew me away. It sounded exactly like a book I-and other true crime aficionados-would devour,” McGuire said. “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 graduated from GHS in 1984, is a veteran print and broadcast journalist. Her long-time role as a court correspondent sparked a deep interest in law and the judicial process.

Ashline’s journalism career has received major awards, including an Emmy nomination for a public broadcasting societal concerns program, a first place Associated Press award for general excellence in individual reporting, and a Gold Medal Award for Democrat and Chronicle online excellence.

You can follow the progress of Ashline’s book on her Facebook author page, @AuthorSusanAshline.