Miles McPherson Bewildered That Former Elder Accused of Murdering Child Escaped Notice, But Father Claims He Warned Church

By Julie Roys
miles mcpherson mccormack arabella leticia
On November 13, 2022, Miles McPherson, senior pastor of Rock Church in San Diego, California, preaches to his congregation. (Video screengrab)

Pastor and former NFL player Miles McPherson spoke to his San Diego megachurch this weekend for the first time since a former elder was charged with murdering and torturing her 11-year-old daughter. McPherson called it a “very sad situation” that was “bewildering.”

“I know when things happen like this, (there are) a lot of questions about how it could happen and why it would happen,” said McPherson, pastor of the Rock Church. “And we have the same questions. . . . It’s also bewildering because there were so many background checks done.”

However, the victim’s father, who spoke with The Roys Report (TRR) in September, says he warned the church about suspected abuse years ago, but staff ignored him.

leticia mccormack child
Leticia McCormack

Last week, Leticia McCormack, a former ordained elder at the Rock, was charged with murder and torture in connection with the death of her adopted daughter, Arabella McCormack. Authorities said Arabella had bruises all over her body, was severely malnourished, and had been abused for about five-and-a-half years.

Leticia McCormack also has been charged with torture and willful cruelty related to her other two daughters, ages 6 and 7, who have been placed with a foster family.

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According to McPherson, the church had no warning there was anything wrong.

McCormack had been a volunteer for law enforcement, McPherson said, and her background had been checked for that position. He added that Child Protective Services (CPS) also ran a background check on McCormack because she was a foster mother and then an adoptive parent. The Rock ran a background check, as well, he said.

However, Arabella’s biological father, Chelsey Sambrano, previously told TRR that he had reported suspected abuse of his daughters to the Rock about five years ago.

Arabella McCormack Rock Church McPherson
Arabella McCormack

Sambrano said Leticia McCormack regularly took Arabella and her sisters to work with her at the Rock Church. And from 2016 to 2018, Sambrano said he had weekly visitations at the Rock with Arabella and her two younger sisters.

Sambrano said his daughters would sometimes recoil in pain when he’d touch them. He added that the children were always hungry and would eat large amounts of food he would bring to visitations.

Sambrano said he reported suspected child abuse to staff at the Rock Church and urged them to investigate. But he said staff ignored him, claiming that abuse wouldn’t happen in the home of an ordained minister and a border agent.

McCormack’s husband, Brian McCormack, was a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent. He died by suicide when detectives came to question him.

Sambrano and Arabella’s biological mother, Torriana Florey, also told TRR that they had received a report from the state indicating that Arabella’s school had contacted Child Welfare Services four times in 2018 with allegations Brian McCormack had abused Arabella on school grounds. Because the children denied any abuse, the cases were dismissed, the parents say.

In September, TRR asked the Rock about Sambrano’s allegations. A spokesperson said she would not address them because they were “very broad.”

TRR reached out again to the Rock this week, asking about the allegations, but no one responded.

In a statement posted online last week, the Rock said, “A tragedy like this will rightly inspire intense reflection and soul searching by anyone who had interaction with this family. . . . clearly evil was hidden from obvious view. It’s shocking and frightening and a reminder that humans are inherently sinners.”

According to a Google Search cache, McCormack served as the ministry leadership program coordinator for the Rock School of Ministry, in addition to being an elder.

In its statement, the Rock said McCormack was a volunteer who “had a limited capacity and was mostly focused on administrative coordination. . . . 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 Rock added that McCormack’s ordination was completed at another church and transferred to the Rock in January 2022. However, her ordination was suspended at the beginning of the criminal investigation and McCormack is no longer affiliated with the church, the church said.

McCormack’s father, Stanley Tom, 75, has also been charged with murder and three counts of torture and willful cruelty to a child. McCormack’s mother, Adella Tom, 70, faces torture and cruelty charges, as well.

The Rock Church, which has about 19,000 attending each week, is part of the Association of Related Churches (ARC), where McPherson serves on the Lead Team. McCormack’s arrest is the latest in a series of scandals within ARC churches or the ARC itself.



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16 thoughts on “Miles McPherson Bewildered That Former Elder Accused of Murdering Child Escaped Notice, But Father Claims He Warned Church”

  1. So many questions. I’m guessing she didn’t bring them to church recently, right before the child died of all kinds of abuse. Even a child told to lie or protect the family (or whatever) cannot hide severe abuse if anyone is paying close attention.

    So many levels of failure here. It is truly newsworthy that this happened with an ordained church elder. Her husband killed himself before he would answer any questions. Her parents are also arrested for child torture? They fostered then adopted these kids to hurt them?

    While it is newsworthy that this happened with a church elder, I am unsure that this particular church, ARC or not, could have done more, considering the schools were not able to do more and the kids were there 5 days per week.

    I will pray for these kids. The depravity of these adults and their double lives, 4 adults, need looking into to prevent this type of thing from happening. I mean, do you get so much money from the state that you do this just to make money, and then literally torture the kids for having their own needs and just for being kids?

    1. I think it’s notable that the children–during the time of the alleged abuse, which reportedly included starvation and beating–were regularly at the church. And the father says he reported his suspicions.

      As to being an ARC church… ARC churches are known for their lack of accountability. Generally, “overseers” are other out-of-town ARC megachurch pastors. I have searched Rock’s website and cannot find any overseers or local elders listed. I have also emailed Rock’s press person for information, but she’s stopped responding.

      Where there is lack of oversight, there is often abuse.

      1. Debra Brinkmeier

        In 2016-2017 I became a member of the Pastoral Support Team at the Rock Church. After attending the Rock Church PL for 8 years I decided to enroll in the Rock School of Ministry/Impact 195. I completed the one year extensive program and graduated in April 2016. The director then suggested I apply for the PST program.
        Leticia most definitely had a Pastoral role for years because not only was she my pre-service huddle leader but she became the overseer and leader of the entire PST program. It’s a 2 year program that prepared us to do everything a Pastor does except preach. She also represented the Rock Church as an on scene crisis counselor for the SDPD. I knew her well. She encouraged me to become a crisis counselor and told me the many stories of 911 calls she responded to.
        There most definitely is a cover-up going on. They are trying to hide how involved she was by diminishing the extent of her responsibility’s and service. Post pandemic after the Rock reopened both Alter Call and the PST program was dropped because close face to face counseling and praying for people was omitted. She then transferred to head of administration for the entire Rock School of Ministry.
        I am speaking out because I know for a fact people turned a blind eye, didn’t speak out and let things go because she is a high performance, overachiever. Exactly that type of person that everyone would say there’s no way she did this to her children.

    2. I have to agree with Linda. If the professionals at CPS didn’t consider the accusations credible, it’s not unreasonable the church (or whoever was notified there) would make the same mistake. Since the kids weren’t forthcoming about the abuse, I don’t know what kind of accountability the church could have put in place that wouldn’t have been an invasion of privacy. I guess you can believe this church is full of monsters that don’t care about kids being abused, but I don’t.

      1. What could they have done? Do their own research. Ask CPS a bruised child isn’t worth reviewing. If you read TRR and Christian post there are tons of abuse stories. Are all church leaders and CPS this naive? All of them? The wonderful SBC finally agrees that abuse and adultery is bad. Oh How Christian of them. Over worked CPS and lazy pastors don’t see things if one chooses to not notice.

      2. One would think that in a church like this there would have been at least a few prayerful, discerning believers listening for the Holy Spirit’s guidance on preventing this evil from being perpetrated on these innocent children. What’s the use of being a Spirit-filled prayer warrior if nothing practical results?!

  2. The comments from the church are anemic: this will inspire reflection and soul searching, and all humans are sinners. It should inspire a complete revision in policy and protocol and maybe some folks looking at a career change. Evidently, there were warnings and a lack of follow-through, which, from what I read, is often the case.

  3. A brood of vipers does exactly what the description suggests. Who care what these or any other people say? The only thing that matters is what they do or fail to do. In the end what is done is all that really exists. Words that are contrary to actions or always lies. And just because an institution sticks “Church” on the building does not mean automatically that Jesus Christ knows them. Those who do not do what Jesus commands are not good disciples. They do not love Him no matter what flowery speeches they put together to tickle ears. Millstones that drown “Church” leaders here on earth are less severe punishments than what Jesus will do according to His own words.

  4. I am no longer amazed at the naivete of these church leaders. story after story of putting their heads in the sand to avoid the appearance of anything other than unicorns and butterflies at their fiefdoms err I mean churches. Just no longer baffles me. It’s actually become the standard operation procedure and of course afterward the comments are “I am so shocked and dismayed”. Here is the test case. TO ALL CHURCHES in the USA USA USA. Has someone recently reported some potential type of criminal activity against a member. CALL THE POLICE. My favored is still when the nursery people in JMACS church told the mom to cover the bruises vs calling the cops. Just no longer amazes me. And that aint good.

  5. It is “bewildering” that ANYONE could do this to children!

    13 “People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant… 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” Mark 10:13-16

    Children should be loved. They are removed from dangerous homes, only to be placed in a foster care system in shambles. These precious children are further devastated then dumped into the world alone, broken and vulnerable.

    What is the modern church doing? Fighting culture wars, protesters, covid protocol, enriching themselves off the Gospel, and endorsing corrupt politicians.

    “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

    Infuriating and heartbreaking!

  6. Wait, why are we ordaining women? Doesn’t the Bible say not to do that?
    If leaders can’t understand and obey what the Bible is clearly saying then we definitely can’t expect them to discern these types of situations. When a church is compromising and disobeying God’s word, it literally becomes a dangerous place.

    1. Rabindranath Ramcharan

      Could you sort of flesh out the causal connection between the church ordaining women and the little girl being murdered? Because I’m not seeing how the one led to the other.

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