Miles McPherson says fmr. church volunteer charged with murder of daughter, 11, passed multiple background checks
Leticia McCormack, a one-time elder and former volunteer at Rock Church in San Diego, who was charged with the murder of her 11-year-old adopted daughter, Arabella, months after her husband died by suicide, had passed several background checks that revealed nothing to suggest her life was on track toward tragedy, said the church’s Senior Pastor Miles McPherson.
“I know when things happen like this there are a lot of questions about how it could have happened, and why it happened. And we have the same questions and we got to go to the Lord for those, for comfort in that situation. It’s also bewildering because there were so many background checks that were done,” McPherson said in an address to his congregation about McCormack’s arrest on Sunday.
“She was a volunteer for law enforcement. Was background checked by law enforcement, was background checked by Child Protective Services because she was a foster mother, an adoptive parent, her and her husband, and obviously, we did a background check,” he explained. “After all that and nothing revealed that anything like this would happen, could happen. And so, we would just ask that you would pray for everybody involved. There are a lot of people who do know her and know the family and are struggling with this.”
A release from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said the 49-year-old McCormack was arrested on Nov. 7, along with her parents, Stanley Tom, 75, and Adella Tom, 70.
Along with murder, she was charged with three counts of torture and three counts of willful cruelty to a child. Her mother was charged with three counts each of torture and willful cruelty to a child, while her father was charged with murder and similar counts of torture and willful cruelty to a child.
The arrests came after months of investigation by the police, who first responded to a call about a child in distress at a home in Spring Valley on Aug. 30. Detectives who responded to the call suspected possible child abuse in the home and Arabella was rushed to a local hospital where she died.
Arabella’s younger sisters, ages 6 and 7, were also removed from the home and placed in foster care. When McCormack’s husband, Brian McCormack, who worked as a border patrol officer, was contacted by police about his adopted daughter’s death, officials say he fatally shot himself inside his truck near the home.
“I know some of you know her, Leticia McCormack, we want to pray for everybody involved. All the people who knew her, our church,” McPherson said.
In an extended statement on the arrest posted on the church’s website, Rock Church said McCormack “had a limited capacity and was mostly focused on administrative coordination” during her time as a volunteer at the church. They further noted that she last did a background check on Oct. 25, 2021.
“Nothing was provided in the background check information we received that would indicate a red flag. Leticia was not a part of our paid staff, was not a pastor and did not serve in any official pastoral role for the church,” the statement said.
It further noted that “her ordination as an elder was completed at another church and transferred to the Rock in January 2022. She is no longer affiliated with the church and her ordination was suspended at the beginning of the investigation and has now been officially revoked.”
The church further pointed out that McCormack’s husband, who was a law enforcement official, was also subject to background checks, and lamented that the “evil was hidden from obvious view.”
“Despite numerous background checks, despite involvement with law enforcement both as a volunteer as well as a member with her husband as a Border Patrol officer, despite government agencies and the courts authorizing adoption and monitoring the children, despite all of this, clearly evil was hidden from obvious view,” the church said. “It’s shocking and frightening and a reminder that humans are inherently sinners. And sometimes, that sinful drive can lead to extreme behavior. We must remain ever vigilant and must continue to seek God’s love.”