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Former Church Elder Pleads Not Guilty to Charges of Murder, Torture of Adoptive Daughter

A California adoptive mother who was arrested and charged with the first-degree murder and torture of her 11-year-old daughter has pleaded not guilty.

Arabella McCormack / Courtesy of San Diego County Sheriff’s Department

Leticia Diane McCormack, 49, is accused in the Aug. 30 death of Arabella McCormack, who she adopted in 2017 along with the girl’s sisters, ages 6 and 7.

McCormack was a church elder and leader at Rock Church San Diego, an evangelical megachurch founded in 2000 by former National Football League player Miles McPherson, who is senior pastor.

Also charged are McCormack’s parents, Adella Tom, 70, and Stanley Tom, 75. Stanley Tom faces murder charges along with McCormack, and all three face torture and child abuse counts involving all three girls.

McCormack and her father face a maximum sentence of 25 years to life, plus two life terms in prison, while Adella Tom faces a maximum of two life terms.

The investigation that led to the arrests began when the San Diego Sheriff’s Office responded to a call of a child in distress at McCormack’s Spring Valley home. Arabella McCormack was found at the home and rushed to the hospital, where she died.

Detectives said they observed signs that made them suspect child abuse, including bruises and severe malnourishment, and turned the case over to the Sheriff Department’s Homicide Division.

The Homicide Unit made contact with Arabella’s father, Brian McCormack, near the family home after her death, and he committed suicide in their presence.

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The sisters are currently living with a foster family.

Rock Church told People magazine in a statement that it no longer has an official relationship with Leticia McCormack.

“Her ordination at Rock Church was previously suspended and is in the process of being revoked,” the statement said.

“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. We send our deepest condolences to all that are grieving at this time. Our hearts go out to each of them.

“The legal process will run its course and we hope justice for Arabella and her sisters will be served. We are praying that God’s love and grace will bring comfort and healing.”

Rock Church has five campuses in Point Loma, San Marcos, El Cajon, Chula Vista, and City Heights.

Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.