The adoptive mother and grandparents accused of the death of 11-year-old Aarabella McCormack pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges that include murder, child abuse, and torture.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department arrested 49-year-old Leticia Diane McCormack and her parents, 70-year-old Adella Tom and 75-year-old Stanley Tom on Nov.7, who are accused in the Aug. 30 death of Aarabella McCormack. Leticia Dianne McCormack, a former ordained elder at San Diego’s Rock Church, is held in custody with her parents without bail.
Sheriff's deputies arrested Leticia and Adella at an apartment building on Block 32000 of Sutter Road in the Lucerne Valley area of San Bernardino County. Authorities arrested Stanley near the intersection of Cable Street and Del Monte Avenue in the Ocean Beach area of San Diego.
McCormack is being charged with first-degree murder, three counts of torture, and three counts of premeditated cruelty to a child. Stanley faces one count of first-degree murder, three counts of torture, and three counts of premeditated cruelty to a child. Adella has been charged with triple torture and deliberate cruelty to a child.
According to the Sheriff’s office, the two additional cases of torture and child cruelty stem from alleged criminal acts against Aarabella’s two younger sisters, aged six and seven. The girls were placed in the care of foster families, Sheriffs officials said.
The investigation began when deputies from the Rancho San Diego’s Sheriff’s Station responded to a call at around 2 a.m. of a child in distress at a home in the 3300 block of Lakeview Drive in Spring Valley. Aarabella was rushed to the hospital with signs of possible child abuse.
Aarabella’s health declined and was pronounced deceased at the hospital, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
Sheriff's Homicide Lieutenant Chris Steffen told reporters on Tuesday that the girl had suffered from “severe levels of malnourishment” and that her body had signs of bruising.
The girl’s father Brian McCormack, a 19-year veteran of the Border Patrol, drove to the scene in a pick-up and shot and killed himself the same day near the family’s home. It is unclear whether he was involved in the child abuse, according to Sheriff’s office.
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.
If charged, McCormack and her father face up to 25 years to life, plus two additional life terms in prison. Adella Tom faces two life terms in prison.
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the Sheriff's Homicide Unit at (858) 285-6330. After hours, call the Sheriff's non-emergency line at (858) 565-5200. You can remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.