NEW HARTFORD, N.Y. — A woman charged with beating her teenage son to death inside a church felt helpless to stop an intervention that spiraled into violent punishment by others, her lawyer said Thursday.

As the encounter turned violent, Deborah Leonard didn’t have the emotional strength to oppose others in a church where she’d worshipped for 30 years, attorney Devin Garramone said.

“It looks like she went along with it, and it spun out of control,” he said. “This woman is so meek and timid, she didn’t have the temerity to stand up to them and say, ‘You’re not punishing my kid. You’re not doing this.'”

Leonard stands charged with manslaughter in the death of her 19-year-old son, Lucas, but Garramone said he believed other people caused the fatal injuries. Six people have been arrested in the beatings of Lucas and his 17-year-old brother, Christopher, at the Word of Life church during what police describe as a spiritual counseling session to urge them to confess sins and seek forgiveness.

The insular church also served as home to some of its members. The parishioners so kept to themselves that when a fire broke out a few years ago, they extinguished it themselves and didn’t want to let firefighters in, Police Chief Michael Inserra said.

And after Lucas Leonard was taken to a hospital Monday and police came to suspect his younger brother had also been hurt, their relatives wouldn’t tell officers where Christopher Leonard was, the chief said.

Only after searching for hours and contacting a former church member did police manage to locate him on the second floor, Inserra said. The teen emerged after speaking to police by phone.

“The membership of this church, they’re devoted to the church” and to spiritual leader Traci Irwin and pastor Tiffanie Irwin, Inserra said. “And they, a lot of times, wait to be told what to do.”

The spiritual leader and pastor, who are mother and daughter, respectively, have not been charged.

Deborah Leonard and her husband – the boys’ father, Bruce Leonard – have pleaded not guilty to manslaughter. Four others, including the victims’ sister, Sarah Ferguson, 33, have pleaded not guilty to assault.