An elder at a California megachurch and her father have been charged with the murder and torture of her adopted 11-year-old daughter, whose adoptive father also killed himself in front of the cops on the day that she died.
Leticia McCormack, 49, and her father Stanley Tom pleaded not guilty to the charges Wednesday in Superior Court of California in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon.
Stanley’s wife Adella Tom – who faces abuse charges – also pleaded not guilty.
Brian McCormack, Leticia’s husband and a CBP agent, killed himself in front of police before he could be charged.
Prosecutors say McCormack and her parents abused and tortured the girl and her two younger siblings, ages 6 and 7, for about five and a half years, leading up to the death of the 11-year-old identified as Arabella, according to the complaint.
In addition to charges of abuse and torture, McCormack and her father face an additional charge of murder.
If convicted they face up to 25 years-to-life, plus two additional life terms in prison.
Adella Tom faces two life terms in prison though it’s unclear why her punishment is tougher than the others.
San Diego Sheriff’s Department said deputies responded to a call of a child in distress at McCormack’s home before 2 a.m. on August 30.
The girl, who had bruises and was severely malnourished, was taken to a hospital, where she died, according to authorities.
After deputies arrived at the home, they contacted the girl’s adoptive father, Brian McCormack, who drove over and shot himself in front of them, the sheriff’s department said.
Brian and Leticia became foster parents to Arabella and her siblings in 2017, when their biological mother lost custody of them. She suffers mental health problems and had been involved in a violent domestic dispute.
Leticia McCormack and her parents were arrested Monday and remain held without bail. The victim’s siblings have been placed in foster care.
Leticia taught courses called ‘Kingdom Life Encounter’ about how to model one’s life after Jesus at the Rock Church in San Diego, founded by former NFL player Miles McPherson, who is the pastor.
The church said it has now severed ties with McCormack, who had been an active volunteer for more than a decade.
Torriana Florey, the biological mother of the girls, told The San Diego Union Tribune that she lost custody of her three daughters to Child Protective Services because of a ‘domestic violence dispute’ with their father. Florey said she suffers from bipolar disorder.
‘I couldn’t be the mom the courts wanted me to be, because I was learning,’ Florey said. ‘Arabella was my first daughter.’
Florey described her daughter as a beautiful, bubbly and loving child.