A pastor and two other men affiliated with a Heart of Worship Church in Corona, California have been charged with kidnapping and torturing a 13-year-old boy as a form of discipline for bad behavior.
Pastor Lonnie Remmers, 54, Nick Craig, 22, and Darryll Jeter, 28 are all facing charges including kidnapping, criminal threats and assault.
According to police, the teen’s mother took him to a men’s group home group home operated by the church for intervention because she believed he had been involved in ‘sexual misconduct.’
Corona police said it was unclear if she knew how the men were planning to discipline her son.
Investigators say Remmers instructed Craig and Jeters, who lived at the home, to ‘scare the boy.’
Police said Craig and Jeter drove the teen about 100 miles to the Barstow desert, forced him to dig a grave, threw dirt on him, and beat him with a belt.
The boy was then reportedly driven back to Remmers’ house where the pastor used a pair of pliers to inflict pain on the boy, police said.
According to police, the boy did not have to be hospitalized.
Craig and Jeter were booked on suspicion of kidnapping, torture, child abuse and conspiracy. Craig and Jeter’s bail was set at $150,000 each.
Remmers was booked on suspicion of torture, child abuse and conspiracy with bail is set at $35,000. All three men have pleaded not guilty.
Corona police Capt. Jerry Rodriguez also noted during a recent interview that Remmers applied in 2011 to serve as one of several Corona Police Department chaplains but failed to pass the department’s criminal and personal background check.
The boy’s unnamed 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 mission statement on the Heart of Worship website says that “if Christ would not think it, say it, or do it, neither will we.”