The pastor and two members of a Corona church pleaded guilty Monday to state charges of beating and threatening the life of a 13-year-old boy, who was forced to dig his own grave, authorities said.
Lonny Lee Remmers, 56, Nicholas James Craig, 24, and Darryll Duane Jeter Jr., 30, tortured the boy in the church-run group home where he lived, according to a witness report in affidavits for search warrants.
FOR THE RECORD
An earlier version of this post and the photo caption said the three men pleaded guilty to federal charges; they are state charges.
Remmers was then the pastor of Heart of Worship Community Church and ran the group home where Craig, Jeter and the victim lived. It was unclear Monday whether Remmers was still the pastor.
The March 2012 incidents included Craig and Jeter driving the victim to the desert and forcing him to dig his own grave. They then made him get in and threw dirt on him. They were responding to Remmers’ instruction to “scare” the boy, according to the affidavits.
While the boy was showering, one of the men rubbed salt into the cuts on his back, according to Steven Larkey, who lived in the group home and provided the witness report in the affidavit. He told investigators he could hear the boy screaming and saw blood all over the shower the next day.
The victim was later tied to a chair with zip ties and placed in the shower. Mace was sprayed on his face, causing it to bleed, and he was not allowed to rinse off for about 30 minutes, according to the victim’s account in the affidavit.
At a Bible study later that evening at Remmers’ home, Remmers asked the boy to sit in the middle of the group and then squeezed his nipple with pliers.
The boy, his mother and sister were members of Remmers’ church. His mother and sister lived in a women’s group home, but the boy said he had been moved to the men’s home as a disciplinary action.
Remmers entered guilty pleas to inflicting bodily injury on a child and assault with a deadly weapon. He will receive a sentence of up to two years in state prison.
At a minimum, he will receive the same sentence as Craig and Jeter, who each were placed on three years of formal probation and must complete a year in custody. They each pleaded guilty to charges of child abuse and making criminal threats, according to the Riverside County district attorney’s office.
“There were new developments, which we will not be discussing, that caused us to believe this was the best disposition for all those involved,” said John Hall, spokesman for the Riverside County district attorney.
Remmers’ sentencing date is scheduled for Sept. 26.