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A former megachurch leader and her elderly parents were arrested this week in the August death of the leader's young adopted daughter.
Leticia McCormack, 49, and her father Stanley Tom, 75, are each facing one count of first-degree murder, three counts of torture and three counts of willful cruelty to a child causing injury or death, according to a press release from the San Diego County Sheriff's Office and jail records reviewed by Oxygen.com. Adella Tom, 70, has been charged with three counts of torture and three counts of willful cruelty to a child causing injury or death.
The alleged victim in the case is McCormack's adopted daughter, Arabella McCormack, 11, who died on Aug. 30.
Police were called to the McCormack home at around 2:00 a.m. on Aug. 30, and found Arabella in medical distress. She was rushed to the hospital but died later that day, and investigators determined she'd likely been abused.
Arabella's biological mother, Torriana Florey, has since told reporters that her daughter had multiple healing fractures and was extremely malnourished at the time of her death, according to the Times of San Diego. Her death was officially classified as a result of abuse and neglect in October, according to San Diego NBC affiliate KNSD.
When investigators returned to the family home after Arabella's death, they found her father, Brian McCormack — an agent with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, according to KNSD — in his pickup truck outside the home, and he died by suicide as officers stood outside the vehicle.
Leticia McCormack was, at the time, an ordained elder and ministry leadership coordinator at the megachurch Rock Church, the pastor of which is former San Diego Chargers player Miles McPherson. The church said in a statement to KNSD that they suspended McCormack's ordination at the time of Arabella's death and that they are currently in the process of revoking it entirely.
Arabella and her two sisters, ages 6 and 7, were placed as foster children with the McCormacks in 2017, according to KNSD. The Times reports that the torture and abuse charges now lodged against Leticia McCormack and her parents allege the abuse began in January 2017 and continued until Arabella's death.
The three girls' adoptions were finalized in 2019. At some point, the McCormacks pulled the children out of public schools in order to homeschool them, KNSD reported.
A neighbor told the station she had no idea that there were any children living in the McCormack house.
“The only time I saw children there was when we first moved in four-and-a-half years ago,” next-door neighbor Jenn Kuroski told KNSD in September. “There were two little girls sitting on the stoop waiting outside. I assumed they were friends of visitors to the house, not that they live there, because I have never seen children playing, coming and going to school. I've never heard children.”
The two other girls were also hospitalized after Arabella's death and then re-homed with another foster family. Both Florey and the girls' unnamed biological father — who KNSD reports is an enrolled member of the federally-recognized Mesa Grande Band of Diegueño Mission Indians — are seeking custody of the children. (Adoptions of Indigenous children are covered by the Indian Child Welfare Act, which establishes strict standards under which they can be adopted into non-Indigenous families. The law is currently under scrutiny at the Supreme Court.)
Florey, the girls' mom, told San Diego Fox affiliate KSWB that she hopes that prosecutors pursue the death penalty in the case.
The county has not responded to media requests for information about the last time Child Welfare Services visited the home or whether it had fielded complaints about the McCormacks or the Toms before Arabella's death, KNSD reported.
All three surviving adults are being held without bail, and are due back in court on Nov. 16, according to jail records. If convicted, McCormack and Stanley Tom could face multiple life sentences. Adella Tom could faces two life sentences if she is convicted.
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