RIVERSIDE – Jury selection got under way today for the trial of a Corona police officer accused of failing to tell her superiors about allegations that a 13-year-old boy was being physically and mentally abused.
Cpl. Margaret Bell, 44, could face jail time and fines if convicted of a misdemeanor count of failing to report evidence of child endangerment.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz summoned prospective jurors to his courtroom at the Riverside Hall of Justice for screening as to their availability and qualifications. Jury selection is expected to conclude tomorrow, followed by opening statements.
Bell, who remains on paid administrative leave, was charged in July following an investigation by the District Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors allege the 23-year law enforcement officer learned about a boy being abused by members of the Heart of Worship fellowship in Corona in March but did not report the information to investigators, as required of a peace officer.
The child, identified in court documents as Jacob, was allegedly subjected to repeated acts of abuse at the hands of three men — Nicholas James Craig, 22, Darryll Duane Jeter, 28, and Lonny Lee Remmers, 54 — all of whom are members of the fellowship. Remmers is the pastor.
The defendants are awaiting trial on a variety of felony charges, including kidnapping, making criminal threats and inflicting corporal injury on a minor.
According to investigators, Jacob’s mother sent him to live with the men after he twice sexually assaulted a 7-year-old family member.
To correct the boy’s behavior, the defendants allegedly made him dig a ditch and threatened that it would be his grave, and once strapped him to a chair in the bathroom of Remmers’ home and pepper-sprayed him, according to testimony from a preliminary hearing last September.
Remmers alone is accused of pinching the boy’s chest with pliers to punish him.
The men could each face more than 15 years in prison if convicted. They’re all free on bail.