Sheriff Investigating Death of San Diego Megachurch Elder’s Daughter; ‘Possible Child Abuse’

By Julie Roys and Sarah Einselen
arabella child daughter
Arabella, the deceased adoptive daughter of Leticia McCormack, seen playing at a park in 2015. (Photo: Torrianna Florey/Facebook)

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the death of an 11-year-old adoptive daughter of an ordained elder at The Rock Church—a San Diego megachurch with a weekly attendance over 19,000, multiple sources told The Roys Report (TRR).

The Sheriff’s Department Homicide Unit confirmed the investigation in a statement to TRR. The statement said detectives noted “signs of possible child abuse” during their investigation.

The biological parents of the deceased girl told TRR they’ve seen photographic evidence of horrific abuse, including starvation and torture.

leticia mccormack child
Leticia McCormack, an ordained elder at The Rock Church

The deceased girl, Arabella*, was the adoptive daughter of Leticia McCormack.

A spokesperson for the Rock Church, where former NFL player Miles McPherson is pastor, confirmed that McCormack is an ordained elder at the church. McCormack also served as the ministry leadership program coordinator for the Rock School of Ministry, according to a Google Search cache of the Rock ministry website. The church told TRR that the coordinator job is a volunteer position.

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According to the Sheriff’s Department statement, deputies responded to a report of a child in distress around 2 a.m. on August 30. The child was reportedly transported by ambulance to a hospital, where her health “continued to decline” and she died.

During the course of their investigation, detectives suspected child abuse and contacted the adoptive father, the statement said. The father then took his life in the detectives’ presence, according to the Sheriff’s Department statement.

Arabella’s biological mother, Torriana Florey, told NBC 7 San Diego that Arabella’s adoptive father was Brian McCormack, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent. NBC 7 said CBP would only confirm that one of its employees had recently died by suicide.

Florey and Arabella’s biological father, Chelsey Sambrano, told TRR that they’ve seen recent photos of Arabella and their two other daughters, aged 6 and 7, who were also living in the McCormacks’ home. The parents say all three children were emaciated in the pictures, and had bruises and scabs on their body, as well as broken teeth and signs of broken bones.

The parents added that their two younger daughters are in intensive care, suffering from an electrolyte imbalance that occurs when feeding is reinstated after severe malnutrition.

“They are like the worst commercials you’ve ever seen for—‘send 25 cents, it’ll feed three kids’,” Sambrano said, adding that his children were never malnourished when living with him and Florey. “This is a crime against children—a crime so severe that my (remaining) children are still not going to be right.”

Sambrano and Florey said San Diego Child Welfare Services removed their daughters from their home after an incident in 2013. The two say they have not seen their daughters since the girls’ adoption in 2019.

Sambrano admits there was a verbal altercation in 2013 between he and Florey but maintain neither parent verbally or physically harmed their children.

Sambrano, who’s an Indigenous American, also asserts that his children were adopted by the McCormacks in 2019 in violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). ICWA is a federal law that prevents the unnecessary removal of indigenous children from their homes by public and private agencies.

TRR called Leticia McCormack multiple times for comment, but her phone appears to be out of service. A Rock Church email address for Leticia McCormack also did not work.

We also reached out to Child Welfare Services (CWS) to ask specifically about Sambrano’s and Florey’s allegations but did not immediately hear back.

Rock Church & CWS accused of ignoring reports of abuse

Both Florey and Sambrano told TRR they noticed signs of abuse shortly after their children were placed in the McCormacks’ home. The parents say they reported their suspicions to both The Rock Church and CWS, but neither organization took their reports seriously.

Sambrano said that from 2016 to 2018, he had weekly visitations with his daughters at The Rock Church’s campus in Point Loma. According to Sambrano, Leticia McCormack took Arabella and her sisters to work with her every day.

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 says staff ignored him, claiming that abuse wouldn’t happen in the home of a border patrol agent and an ordained minister.

Sambrano said he also complained to a CWS worker but got a similar response.

rock church abuse arabella
The Rock Church – Point Loma Campus in San Diego, Califronia (Courtesy Photo)

TRR reached out to the Rock Church, which acknowledged Leticia McCormack started volunteering at the church in 2013 and was employed there through a temp agency from September 2020 to January 2021. The church’s spokesperson, Mei Ling Nazar, said McCormack’s ordination has been put on hold and she is not an active volunteer.

Nazar did not address Florey and Sambrano’s claims, saying they were “very broad.”

Rock Church is “committed to cooperating” with law enforcement and child welfare investigators, Nazar stated. The church also extended its condolences and offered prayers for comfort and peace for those grieving.

TRR asked CWS if it had any record of Sambrano’s complaint to a CWS worker, but has not heard back.

Florey told TRR that she once hugged one of her daughters and the daughter said it hurt. Florey said when she asked her daughter what hurt, the daughter replied that “Mama Leticia” had told her that she can’t say.

Florey said when she confronted Leticia McCormack about the child’s response, McCormack claimed the girl was just being dramatic.

After that incident, Florey said she was required to come to a state-provided visitation center for all her visits.

Florey and Sambrano also say they’ve received a report from the state indicating that Arabella’s school contacted CWS four times in 2018 with allegations Brian McCormack abused Arabella on campus. Because the children denied any abuse, the cases were dismissed, the parents say.

TRR asked CWS about the reports but has not received a response.

Rock Church accused of ignoring abuse before

This is not the first time Rock Church employees have been linked to alleged child abuse.

This year, David Looney, a former teacher at Rock Academy, a K-12 school run by Rock Church, pleaded guilty to crimes associated with the alleged sexual abuse of a former Rock Academy student. Court records show an anonymous plaintiff has also sued Looney and Rock Church this year for damages in civil court.

In 2013, multiple anonymous families sued the Rock Church in civil court, alleging another church employee had sexually abused their children.

Rock Church Miles McPherson
The Rock Church Pastor Miles McPherson (Courtesy Photo)

A former Rock Church pastor also claimed in a separate lawsuit that the church had fired him to keep him from testifying in the 2013 lawsuit, according to Courthouse News. The former pastor, August Hunter, alleged he and his wife saw the Rock Church employee molesting a child in an elevator, media reported.

San Diego County court records show both suits have since been dismissed.

Rock Church is formally associated with ARC, the Association of Related Churches, and Pastor Miles McPherson and his wife, Debby, are on the ARC Lead Team. ARC is one of the largest church planting organizations in the country and has been dogged by scandals involving alleged financial, sexual, and spiritual abuse.

Julie Roys is a veteran investigative reporter and founder of The Roys Report.

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning reporter and editor, based in Texas.

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12 thoughts on “Sheriff Investigating Death of San Diego Megachurch Elder’s Daughter; ‘Possible Child Abuse’”

  1. This is horrible – how could anyone not see that something was horribly wrong YEARS ago – and contacting the authorities

    Thank God the possible government intervention to these corrupt evangelical communities. Sad to say, too little, too late her for the oldest daughter…😠

    1. Because, as we have seen time and again from the reporting on this site, they didn’t want to hear about or acknowledge anything that would damage the reputation of their church.

  2. In my denomination we conduct training for volunteers and staff on maintaining child-safe ‘spaces’ ( means ‘activities’). I’ve made the point from time to time that there is no training in the signs of abuse in children or the course of action except report to the senior minister or the ministry standards group (MSG for short). Nor is there any instruction for children or church members as to what they are to expect from volunteers and those in responsibility. It’s like baling a sinking boat with a sieve.
    We should advise all in child ministries to act like mandatory reporters and contact child welfare or the police irrespective of what the senior minister says. We’ve got to take Romans 13 seriously!

    1. And once again, I read an article that ends with this: “…Church is formally associated with ARC, the Association of Related Churches”

  3. Why do they say, “Allege” when many of the allegations have been proven already in many of the ARC Churches? I’m really surprised that Miles McPherson has allowed these scandals to happen in his Church without him putting up a fight to clear his name or the Church’s name! I’m learning in the 21st century that everything, even within the Lord’s Church, is really possible!

  4. Not all ARC pastors and churches are bad. It’s unfortunate what happened at the Rock church but let’s be real and keep in mind that’s it’s a megachurch with almost 20. 000 attendees. I agree with the previous comments there should be some common standards procedures when it comes kids program a. The church is a blessing for the community.

    1. Nuts! Lets call this what it is: a flaming pile of H.S. that leverages God’s Holy name in order to satisfy the narcissist in charge. We really need to stop defending the indefensible. A playbook straight from the pit of hell. Hell is full of people who practice evil while whitewashing the reality.

  5. Gary, who knows why the biological parents of these precious children gave them up. The reason is irrelevant. I think we can and should agree that they deserved a safe and loving environment once they were placed in this home. That they did not experience this is on the parents who accepted this responsibility, the system and any one who looked away when it appeared they were neither safe, nor loved. Totally agree with Daffy’s point about providing the training her denomination provides to keep children safe. This practice is truly “pro-life.”

  6. There was a comment by a Gary stating to the effect, “you shouldn’t breed if you can’t feed.” My comment is in response to that, but it seems to have been removed or maybe I am just having a senior moment. :-), but I am pretty sure.

  7. I recently found out that most of the reports go un-investigated. Here in SD apparently there are SO many reports that they only look into the most severe cases. How this case wasn’t determined to be severe boggles my mind.

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