Authorities say that a woman from Southern California and her parents have been arrested on charges of child abuse in the death of an 11-year-old girl earlier this year. The woman was a well-known member of a large church in San Diego.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said on Tuesday that 49-year-old Leticia McCormack and her parents, Stanley Tom, 75, and Adella Tom, 70, were arrested in the death of Arabella McCormack, 11, in August.
The sheriff’s office said that both Leticia McCormack and Stanley Tom were charged with one count of murder and three counts each of torture and being cruel to a child on purpose. Adella Tom was charged with three counts of torture and three counts of being cruel to a child on purpose.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, all three pleaded not guilty at their first court hearing on Wednesday.
The sheriff’s office said that Arabella had two sisters who were 6 and 7 years old. They have since been placed with a foster family.
Arabella’s mom told the U-T that McCormack and her husband took in Arabella and her two younger sisters as foster children in 2017 and later adopted all three of them.
The U-T says that prosecutors said in a criminal complaint that Arabella and her two sisters had been abused and tortured by McCormack and her parents for five and a half years.
The sheriff’s department said that the situation started early on August 30 when deputies were called to a home in the Spring Valley area of San Diego County to help a child who was in trouble. Arabella, the child, was rushed to a nearby hospital, but she died there.
During an investigation, detectives saw signs of possible child abuse, according to the sheriff’s office. When Arabella’s adopted father, Brian McCormack, was contacted by deputies, he killed himself in front of them. The U-T says that Brian McCormack worked for the Border Patrol.
Leticia McCormack, on the other hand, was a well-known member of the Rock Church San Diego, which has multiple locations in San Diego County. In a statement to CBS News on Thursday, the church said that McCormack was never a pastor at Rock Church but was “ordained as an elder at another church in the Assemblies of God denomination.”
The church says that ordained elders work for free and do many things, but they still have a “limited scope.” The church said that her ordination had been “previously put on hold, and it was decided to take it away.”
The church also said, “We no longer have any official ties with Leticia.”
In its statement, the church said, “We have heard that Leticia and her parents have been arrested as a result of an investigation by the sheriff’s office.” “Arabella and her sisters are still in our thoughts and prayers. We’re so sorry that their family and friends have to go through this kind of pain and loss.”