A prosecutor revealed to gasps in a courtroom that an 11-year-old San Diego girl who died after allegedly being tortured and starved by her adoptive mother and grandparents was so malnourished that “her bones protruded from her skin.”
Horrifying new details about Arabella McCormack’s death were revealed at a bail hearing Tuesday at El Cajon Superior Court for Leticia McCormack, 49, an ordained elder at a local megachurch, and her mother Adella Tom, 70.
In the death of the 11-year-old, McCormack was charged with murder, torture, and willful cruelty to a child last month. Torture and cruelty charges were leveled against Tom.
Stanley Tom, 75, McCormack’s father, also was charged with murder, torture and willful cruelty but previously waived his right to revisit his no-bail status, the San Diego Union Tribune reported.
The Toms have both served as volunteers with San Diego Police Department since 2015, according to the paper.
“We can imagine no scenario where individuals like this, are facing charges such as this, against outrageous evil actions such as this, where they are not a danger to the public,” Deputy District Attorney Meredith Pro said Tuesday, the paper reported.
After hearing about the horrific nature of the crime and determining that the suspects are a danger to the public, Judge Kathleen Lewis ordered McCormack and her mother to remain locked up without bail.
Arabella weighed only 48 pounds when she died in August, Pro said, which was less than she weighed when she was 5 years old.
“Her bones protruded from her skin,” she said, drawing audible gasps from the audience.
Arabella and her two younger sisters were allegedly abused and tortured for about five and a half years by McCormack, who volunteered as an ordained elder and administrator at the Rock Church.
The suspects deprived the children of food and water, Pro said, and beat them with paddles and sticks, the Union Tribune reported.
They also isolated the girls in their rooms, denied them access to bathrooms and forced them to engage in rigorous exercises, according to Pro.
Arabella claimed she was covered in bruises and had at least 15 separate bone fractures. The two younger girls were hospitalized for three weeks after the nightmare.
Defense attorneys for the women argued that their clients pose no threat to the public and have no criminal history.
McCormack’s attorney, Gregory Garrison, requested that bail be set at $1 million, while Tom’s attorney, Randy Wagner, requested that bail be set at $100,000.
“Ms. McCormack has no prior arrests,” Garrison said, NBC San Diego reported. “No prior convictions, and there is no evidence – let me say it again, there is no evidence to support an argument that she poses a danger to the public.”
Wagner also noted that his client is frail.
“She, I think more so, does not represent a danger to the community,” the public defender said.
But the judge wasn’t swayed, saying the abuse involved a “great deal of callousness” and occurred over a long period of time.
The Toms have both served as volunteers with San Diego Police Department since 2015. But it’s precisely that community leadership that the prosecutor said makes this all the more troubling.
Brian McCormack, Arabella’s adoptive father and a Border Patrol agent, committed suicide in front of police after doctors declared her dead.
The request for Child Welfare Services records made by NBC San Diego has been denied.
When asked outside the courtroom how the child abuse could have gone on for so long, Pro replied, “Your guess is as good as mine.”
McCormack and her parents all pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to appear in court again in January.