A Southern California woman and her parents have been arrested on allegations of child abuse in the death of an 11-year-old girl earlier this year, authorities announced. The woman was a high-profile member of a San Diego megachurch.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department reported Tuesday that 49-year-old Leticia McCormack and her parents — 75-year-old Stanley Tom and 70-year-old Adella Tom — were arrested in the August death of 11-year-old Arabella McCormack.
Leticia McCormack and Stanley Tom were both booked on one count of murder, and three counts each of torture and willful cruelty to a child, the sheriff’s department said. Adella Tom was booked on three counts each of torture and willful cruelty to a child.
All three plead not guilty at their first court hearing Wednesday, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Arabella had two sisters, ages six and seven, who have since been placed with a foster family, the sheriff’s department said.
Arabella’s biological mother told the U-T that McCormack and her husband became foster parents to Arabella and her two younger sisters in 2017, and later adopted all three of them.
In a criminal complaint, prosecutors alleged McCormack and her parents had abused and tortured Arabella and her two sisters for five-and-a-half years, the U-T reports.
The situation unfolded in the early morning hours of Aug. 30, when deputies responded to a call of a child in distress at a home in the Spring Valley area of San Diego County, the sheriff’s department said. The child, Arabella, was rushed to a local hospital, where she later died.
During an investigation, detectives suspected signs of possible child abuse, the sheriff’s department reported, and when deputies contacted Arabella’s adopted father, Brian McCormack, he committed suicide in their presence. Brian McCormack was a Border Patrol agent, the U-T reports.
Leticia McCormack, meanwhile, was a high-profile member of Rock Church San Diego, which has several campuses in San Diego County. In a statement to CBS News Thursday, the church said that McCormack was never a pastor at Rock Church, but was “ordained as an elder at another church under the Assemblies of God denomination.”
According to the church, ordained elders work on a volunteer basis with multiple tasks, but still have a “limited scope.” The church said her ordination was “previously suspended and the decision was made to revoke it.”
The church added that it “no longer has any official relationship with Leticia.”
“We have received notice that Leticia and her parents have been arrested as a result of the sheriff’s department investigation,” the church said in its statement. “We continue to grieve for Arabella and her sisters. We are so sorry that their family and friends are experiencing this unimaginable loss and pain.”