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Cop allegedly didn't report that boy was forced to dig own grave

July 17, 2012 |  4:01 pm

A Corona police officer pleaded not guilty Tuesday after being charged with failure to report the suspected child abuse of a 13-year-old boy who was allegedly forced to dig his own grave, authorities said.

The Corona Police Department was notified March 29 about a boy who had been taken out to a desert area in Barstow by three men affiliated with Heart of Worship, a church in Corona. The boy was told to dig his own grave. His mother allegedly brought the boy to the men--Pastor Lonny Remmers, Nicholas Craig and Darryll Jeter Jr. – for punishment, the Riverside County district attorney's office said.

Cpl. Margaret Bell, an officer since 1989, was a member of the church, and was allegedly told of some form of abuse prior to March 29, Hall said. She was charged with a misdemeanor count of failing to report child abuse or neglect, which she is required by law to do.

“Obviously, what we’ve charged goes above and beyond any discipline that should have been done. These are actual criminal offenses,” said John Hall, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office.

Remmers, 54, Craig, 22, and Jeter, 28, were charged with kidnapping, making criminal threats, assault with a deadly weapon not a firearm producing great bodily injury and child abuse. Their preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 7.

An anonymous source tipped the Corona Police Department off to Bell’s knowledge, and authorities notified the district attorney’s office, which opened a criminal investigation. Police are also conducting their own internal investigation on the matter.

“As a police officer in the city of Corona, she was an outstanding police officer,” said Frank Barron, a spokesman for the Corona Police Department.

Bell has no criminal history.

“It’s unusual for us to file criminal charges against a law enforcement officer. It’s also unusual to have the evidence that shows a failure to report,” Hall said.

If convicted, Bell would face up to six months in jail.

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-- Melissa Leu

twitter.com/MelissaLeu

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