CORONA, Calif. — The pastor of a Riverside County storefront church and two of his followers were charged with assaulting a 13-year-old boy who authorities said was disciplined by being pinched with pliers, beaten with a shovel, forced to dig a grave and threatened with death.
Suspect Lonny Remmers, 54, of Corona pleaded not guilty Wednesday to assault with a deadly weapon and inflicting corporal injury on a child. Nick Craig, 22, and Darryll Jeter Jr., 28, pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, assault and other felonies, prosecutors said.
They were arrested on Friday and remained jailed Wednesday. It was not immediately clear whether they had obtained attorneys.
If convicted, Remmers could face up to seven years in prison. The other men could face up to 19 years and fours month each, said John Hall, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office.
Remmers is the pastor of Heart of Worship Community Church in Corona. There was no phone listing for the church.
The Associated Press called the phone listing for a Lonny L. Remmers in Corona on Wednesday, but no message could be left because the mailbox was full.
The boy, whose name was not released, was kidnapped on March 18 after his mother took him to a group home operated by the church to seek guidance because she was having some kind of disciplinary issues with him, police Sgt. Frank Barron said.
Remmers instructed two men who lived at the home to scare the boy, and they drove him about 100 miles to the Barstow desert, police said.
“They had him dig a hole, threatened that they would kill him, as well as hit him with a shovel and partially threw dirt on him while he was in the hole,” Barron said.
The boy was returned to the group home, where he was bound with a plastic tie and sprayed in the face with Mace, Barron said.
Later, he was taken to the pastor’s home for Bible study during which Remmers pinched him with pliers although none of his injuries required hospitalization, police said.
The boy’s 30-year-old mother has not been arrested, but the boy and his 7-year-old sister were taken into protective custody while the investigation continues, police said. The mother’s name has not been released.
Investigators are trying to determine if there were other possible victims, Barron said.
The church’s website says its mission is “to raise the church body to be true disciples of Christ, meaning that if Christ would not think it, say it, or do it, neither will we.”
The church location, a former dance studio in a strip mall, is closed and the space is up for lease, but the group home apparently is still operating, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported.
Credit: The Associated Press.