A Jan. 27 trial date was confirmed Monday for a pastor and two members of a Corona church accused of beating and threatening the life of a 13-year-old boy handed over to the trio to be disciplined for sexually abusing his younger sister.
Nicholas James Craig, 23, Darryll Duane Jeter, 29, and Lonny Lee Remmers, 55, could each face more than 15 years in prison if convicted of kidnapping, making criminal threats and two counts each of child abuse and assault.
During a hearing before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Michele Levine, the prosecution and defense agreed to prepare for the start of trial proceedings in late January.
Meantime, the defendants, all of whom are affiliated with Heart of Worship mission, remain free on bail amounts ranging from $35,000 to $150,000.
During a September 2012 preliminary hearing, a Corona police detective testified about four alleged instances in which the men abused a boy identified only as "Jacob."
The juvenile's mother placed him in the group home run by Remmers on 10th Street after the 13-year-old sexually molested his 7-year-old sister, according to testimony.
Remmers, Craig and Jeter allegedly proceeded to use extreme methods to discipline the boy, police said. Their tactics included driving the child to a deserted location near Barstow, making him dig a grave and threatening to bury him in it if he didn't change his behavior, investigators alleged.
According to testimony, a member of the group home told investigators that on one occasion, the boy was bound to a chair, placed inside a shower and doused with pepper spray. He was allegedly left tied up in the bathroom for an hour, heaving and struggling for air, his nose bleeding from violently shaking his head to clear his nostrils.
On another occasion, Remmers allegedly took a pair of pliers, pinched Jacob's left nipple and twisted it until the boy cried for mercy, according to witnesses.
A member of the group home complained about the alleged mistreatment to a longtime Corona police officer, Cpl. Margaret Bell, who also belonged to Heart of Worship.
Bell was tried earlier this year on a misdemeanor charge of failure by a law enforcement official to report child abuse or neglect. She acknowledged that an eccentric parishioner had raised concerns about Jacob's welfare but she didn't take the complaint seriously because the parishioner had a history of making strange and implausible claims.
Bell was convicted, fired from the police force and sentenced to six months probation.--City News Service