Cpl. Margaret Bell, a volunteer coordinator, was charged Tuesday with a misdemeanor count of failure to report child abuse. Investigators said that suspected abuse happened to a 13-year-old boy who was allegedly pinched with pliers, beaten with a shovel, forced to dig a grave and threatened with death by a pastor of Bell's church.
"We believe she was told by at least one member of this church, that Lonny Remmers was pastor of, that this suspected child abuse had gone on," said John Hall, spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney's Office. "We believe she was told by at least one person and then failed to report it."
Bell pleaded not guilty. She is set to return to court Aug. 7.
Prosecutors said Pastor Lonny Remmers, leader of the Heart of Worship Community Church, and two followers assaulted the boy, whose mother brought him to a group home run by the church to seek help with discipline.
The alleged incident happened in March, when investigators said Remmers directed his stepson, Nick Craig, and church member Darryl Jetter to drive the teen to Barstow. In the middle of the desert, police said the boy was forced to dig his own grave, get into the hole and was beaten with belts.
The district attorney has piled on more charges on Remmers' child abuse case. He will also be charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment and making criminal threats. Remmers was also accused of applying pliers to the child's chest during a bible study session.
The two other men were charged with kidnapping and assault.
Corona police said that after learning about Bell's possible knowledge of the alleged abuse, they turned over that portion of the case to the District Attorney's Office.
Bell has been on paid administrative leave since early April.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.