CORONA (AP) — A Southern California pastor charged with terrorizing a 13-year-old boy allegedly carried out the assault during a Bible study session while a circle of men watched, newly unsealed court documents revealed.
The pastor of the Corona storefront church and two of his followers are accused of disciplining the teen by pinching him with pliers, beating him with a shovel and forcing him to dig a grave while being threatened with death, authorities said.
Heart of Worship Community Church pastor Lonny Remmers, 54, and followers Nick Craig, 22, and Darryll Jeter Jr., 28, all pleaded not guilty last month to kidnapping, assault and other felonies.
The newly released affidavit, based on statements by witness Steven Larkey to a Corona police detective, included new details on the alleged assault during Bible study and an allegation that Craig or Jeter rubbed salt into cuts on the boy's back.
The Riverside Press-Enterprise obtained the documents after getting a judge to unseal affidavits in the case.
Police believe Remmers directed Craig and Jeter to scare the teenager after his mother brought him to Remmers to be disciplined.
Court documents allege that Craig and Jeter took the unidentified boy to the desert, made him dig a grave, threw dirt on him and hit him with a belt before returning to a group home and assaulting him.
The teen was showering after the desert trip when salt was rubbed into his back wounds, according to Larkey, who said the shower was splashed with blood the following day.
After showering, the boy was taken to a men's Bible study in the garage of Remmers home, Larkey told authorities. He said there were about 12 people there and Remmers asked the boy to sit in the center of a group of men.
Larkey told Detective Brad Voorhees that he heard Remmers say, "'Get me some pliers.'"
The teen lifted his shirt, Larkey said, and Remmers used the tool to squeeze a nipple, according to the affidavit.
The boy's 30-year-old mother has not been arrested or charged, but the teen and his 7-year-old sister were taken into protective custody while the investigation continues. The mother's name has not been released.
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.