Riverside: Witness says boy assaulted at Bible study

The Press-Enterprise, California/May 15, 2012

Corona pastor Lonny L. Remmers' alleged assault on a 13-year-old boy took place during a Bible study session as a circle of men watched, newly released court records say.

Statements by witness Steven Larkey to Corona police Detective Brad Voorhees added new details to previously reported allegations involving Remmers and two men, Nicholas J. Craig and Darryll D. Jeter Jr., who lived in one of Remmers' group homes. Larkey, also a group-home resident, reported the alleged incidents March 29.

Those statements were contained in affidavits written by Voorhees in support of search warrants in the case. Superior Court Judge Becky Dugan unsealed those affidavits after The Press-Enterprise argued in court that they should be made public. Defense attorneys objected to the release, fearing the publicity would jeopardize fair trials.

Remmers, head of the Heart of Worship Community Church, has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon and inflicting corporal injury on a minor. Craig and Jeter have been charged with kidnapping and assaulting the boy, among other crimes. All three defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Police believe Remmers directed Craig and Jeter to "scare" the boy after his mother brought the boy to Remmers to be disciplined. Court documents allege that on March 18, 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 the group home and assaulting him there.

Among the new allegations made in the affidavits is that either Craig or Jeter rubbed salt in the boy's wounds. Larkey said that when the boy was showering after the desert trip, one of the men placed the salt into the cuts on the boy's back. Larkey said he could hear the boy screaming.

Also, Larkey said, the next day he saw blood all over the shower. The boy told Voorhees that he had been stripped, bound to a chair and sprayed with Mace. His nose began to bleed, and because of the pain of the Mace on his face, he thrashed his face from side to side, causing the blood to spatter.

Later that day, March 19, the boy was brought to a men's Bible study in the garage of Remmers' Sloan Drive home, Larkey said. He said there were about 12 people there and that Remmers asked the boy to sit in the center of a group of men. Larkey said he heard Remmers say "Get me some pliers," Voorhees wrote.

When the boy lifted his shirt, Larkey said, Remmers squeezed a nipple, causing the boy to cry out in pain. Voorhees later interviewed the boy, who Voorhees said reluctantly cooperated and denied crying out in pain or asking Remmers to stop.

The search warrants were sought for Remmers' home, the group home on W. Tenth Street in Corona, a 2001 GMC Yukon and for DNA samples from Jeter, Craig and the boy. Voorhees also asked to search any computers or storage devices for messages sent by the suspects.

Larry Noe, Remmers' attorney, told Dugan that releasing the affidavits could result in media stories that were "sensational," "inflammatory," "prejudicial" and could taint the jury pool.

"I think their right to a fair trial is being jeopardized," he said.

Jeter's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Wendy Seto, said she agreed.

Dugan countered that the public had a right to know the information in the affidavits immediately. She said unsealing them now would actually help the defense because she believed that the media would report the details now but then direct their attention away from Remmers as new court cases emerged.

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