Families hold first funerals for Mormon massacre victims

Nellie Chapman
November 10, 2019

Houses are seen in LeBaron, Chihuahua, Mexico November 9, 2019.

The families had lived in two hamlets in Mexico's Sonora state: La Mora and Colonia LeBaron.

In a place where families felt safe enough to allow their kids to play outside, the biggest concern for residents is finding out why the women and children were massacred - and that answer will help them decide whether to stay or leave. A convoy carrying women and children - dual US-Mexican citizens - ambushed and sprayed with hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

What had been a peaceful existence in a fertile valley ringed by rugged mountains and desert scrub about 70 miles (112 kilometers) from the border with Arizona became increasingly risky in recent years as the cartels exerted their power and battled each other in Sonora state, a drug smuggling hotbed.

But the deaths also brought together different Mormon groups, and even those who fled them, to demand that not only Mexico or the United States but an worldwide taskforce intervene in the country's endemic violence. "I don't want snipers, I want educators".

The incident occurred at Bavispe in northeastern Sonora, near the USA border.

"They shot us up, burned our vehicles to send a smoke signal into the sky", Langford said, arguing that the gang's goal was to draw the Sinaloa gunmen into battle.

Both La Mora and Colonia leBaron were formed last century by "outcast" Mormons whose polygamist beliefs were rejected by the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Eight other children managed to escape, six of them wounded.

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She stated Mexico had to conquer pride, and take outside assistance from a neighboring nation or global coalition, such as the United Nations, to stamp out the cartels. Three other children, including Faith, have been reunited with relatives at La Mora. He is fearful at present to settle permanently in Mexico with his seven children.

But those killings - which sparked a further crackdown on cartels - also showed how much worse things have become: No children were killed back then.

But Julian LeBaron, whose brother Benjamin, an anti-crime activist, was killed by cartel gunmen in 2009, disputed that.

Those who left made a quick decision to leave behind their property, Langford-Staddon said. "To be able to make those kind of decisions under those circumstances is something not a lot of people can say they can do". She returned to her birthplace Colonia LeBaron 13 years ago after living in the United States for more than three decades. He said the eight children who survived reported that one mother got out of her SUV and raised her hands and was gunned down anyway.

Miller said that with the eyes of the world upon the shocking attacks, he hopes their deaths may not be in vain and can spotlight what he deems a nationwide concern with thousands of Mexicans mourning missing and dead loved ones amid record-setting homicide levels.

"The government's main policy tool, the National Guard, is not where it should be", Hope said, noting that Sonora and Chihuahua states, with over 160,000 square miles between them, have only about 4,100 National Guard officers stationed there, or about one for every 40 square miles.

"This is, and is going to, bring the different groups closer together", Bostwick said of the massacre.

She had previously built resentments among some of them by speaking up against "the atrocities" of her parents' religion, such as polygamy and underage marriage.

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