Church Members Plead Guilty To Torturing 13-Year-Old Boy, Making Him Dig His Own Grave

A pastor and two members of a Corona church pleaded guilty on Monday to torturing a 13-year-old boy, including making him dig his own grave.

Lonny Remmers, the 56-year-old pastor of Heart of Worship Community Church, pleaded guilty to inflicting corporal injury on a minor and assault with a deadly non-firearm weapon. His stepson Nicholas James Craig, 24, and Darryll Duane Jeter Jr., 30, pleaded guilty to child abuse and making criminal threats, reported the Press-Enterprise. In addition to making the boy think that he was going to be buried alive, they also beat him, rubbed salt in his wounds, and squeezed his nipple with a pair of pliers in a series of bizarre incidents in March 2012.

Members of the Heart of Worship Community Church would meet at different places throughout Corona, including Remmers' home on Sloan Drive. Remmers was the leader for the church's group homes for women and men who had just left jail and were getting reestablished into society. Former members of the church said that Remmers was controlling in all aspects of their lives from who they dated to what books they read, and he serve a heavy-handed disciplinary role.

In March 2012, the boy's mother asked Remmers to discipline her child after the boy sexually assaulted his 7-year-old sister. The boy was moved from the women's group home he shared with his mother and sister to the men's group home.

Craig and Jeter took the boy to Barstow and made him dig his own grave for over an hour, according to an affidavit. They made him get in the hole and threatened his life, throwing dirt over him. As he tried to get out of the hole fearing that they would bury him alive, they beat him with belts before eventually letting him out. Steve Larkey, a member of the church who lived in the group home, said that the boy came back home after the ordeal and showered. Larkey was told by another person that Craig or Jeter went into the shower and rubbed salt into the boy's wounds on his back. Craig and Jeter said they were following orders from Remmers to "scare" the boy, the L.A. Times reported.

Another incident, the boy said that he was stripped naked, tied to a chair with zip ties, place in a shower, and then Maced in his face. Also, during a bible study at Remmers' home, Remmers used a pair of pliers to pinch the boy's nipple in front of the 12-person group, according to the affidavits.

When Larkey witnessed these events, he told Corona police Cpl. Margaret Bell, who was also a member of the church, about it; however, she didn't report it to the police department. He later told his boss at a restaurant he worked at, Corona City Councilman Steve Nolan, who in turn told police. Bell, a 24-year veteran of the force was fired, and convicted of failing to report suspected child abuse.

“At the beginning it was like hell," Larkey said, according the Press-Enterprise. "Witnessing things like that, it was mind-boggling and it really ate at me."

Remmers, will be sentenced on Sept. 26, and could face up to two years in state prison. Craig and Jeter have been placed on three years of formal probation and a year in custody in home confinement. Kidnapping charges were dropped for all of them.