A Suspect Arrested In The US Mormon Family Murder

A suspect has been arrested in the massacre of nine family members from a Mormon community on the Mexican side of the border with the United States, Mexican authorities said Tuesday.


The Ministerial Agency for Criminal Investigations (AMIC) said it hasdetained an individual who was holding two bound and gagged hostages in the hills of Agua Prieta in the state of Sonora.

The arrest comes just a day after women and childrenwere brutally attacked by criminal groups while driving near the US-Mexico border, Mexican authorities said. The victims appear to be a fundamentalist sect separate from the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Peniche Espejel said he believes the newly-formed “Los Jaguares” cartel, an off-shoot of the Sinaloa cartel, may be behind the massacre. But earlier Tuesday, a US official said a rival cartel called La Línea is under focus.

Mormon family murdered
Three women, four small children and two infants — all dual US-Mexican citizens — were killed in their vehicles Monday, according to family member Alex LeBaron. The victims and eight surviving children were ambushed by criminal groups Monday evening while traveling between the states of Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexican authorities said.

The family may have been targeted

The LeBaron family had a history of conflict with Mexican drug cartels, which indicates that they may have been targeted, former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda said on Tuesday evening.

“They had stood up to the drug cartels and they did have certain frictions either with the cartels or with neighboring communities over water rights,” Castañeda said.

“Their long-standing tensions, and apparently the woman who was driving in the first car that was attacked was an activist. She was someone who was very active in her community, defending her family, her fellow members of the community against cartels, on the issue of water rights,” Castañeda said, describing one of the three women killed, without naming her.

In a news conference earlier Tuesday, Mexican Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said the attack may have been a case of mistaken identity of “conflicting groups in the area.”

Cars ablaze and full of bullet holes

Mormon family murdered, cars were set in fire each
Each of the three cars held mothers driving their children to see family: one to pick up her husband, another to meet her husband and move to North Dakota and the third to visit family in the neighboring state of Chihuahua, said Kendra Lee Miller.

“My brother was fixing Rhonita’s broken-down vehicle, saw a fire, didn’t think anything of it,” Kendra Lee Miller said.

“Then (he) saw the explosion, went to check it out, saw it was my mother’s vehicle, full of bullet holes, completely ablaze,” she said.

A family member said a 13-year-old boy who was unharmed in the attack walked about 14 miles for help, after hiding his bleeding siblings in the bushes and covering them with branches.

Seven children injured in the ambush were flown from Mexico to Douglas, Arizona, for transport to Tucson hospitals, LeBaron said.

The community

The Mormons who were attacked appear to be members of a sect that is separate from the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an LDS church spokesman said.

“We are heartbroken to hear of the tragedy that has touched these families in Mexico,” spokesman Eric Hawkins said. “From what I can tell, these were members of a polygamist sect, and not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Generally, the community is fundamentalist. One of the victim’s relatives said some members practice polygamy.

Despite some differences between individual beliefs, “we are a massive family,” Langford said.

A region marred by violence

In 2009, a member of the LeBaron family living in Chihuahua state was abducted and returned unharmed a week later. His brother, Benjamin LeBaron, became an anti-crime activist but he and his brother-in-law were killed two months later.

Last year, Mexico witnessed its highest number of homicides — 33,000. And 2019 is on course to break that record.

Now, grief from the latest high-profile massacre has spread across two countries.


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