A man whose daughter and grandchildren were brutally murdered Monday by a Mexican drug cartel said the gunmen were trying to stoke fear in their community.
Adrián LeBaron spoke against the cartel from the grim scene where his daughter, Rhonita Maria Miller, 31, and four of her children — Howard Jacob Miller, Jr., age 12; Krystal Bellaine Miller, 10; and 8-month-old twins Titus Alvin Miller and Tiana Gricel Miller — were massacred in a burned-out, bullet-ridden SUV outside the town of Bavispe, three hours south of the Arizona border.
Two other mothers, Christina Marie Langford Johnson, 31, and Dawna Ray Langford, 43, and her two children, 11-year-old Trevor Harvey Langford and 2-year-old Rogan Jay Langford, were all shot to death.
Adrián LeBaron, the father of Rhonita Maria Miller, 31, and four of her children — Howard Jacob Miller, Jr., age 12; Krystal Bellaine Miller, 10; and 8-month-old twins Titus Alvin Miller and Tiana Gricel Miller — who were murdered by a Mexican drug cartel Monday.
The grieving father told the Daily Mail the gang carried out a “premeditated” attack, adding, “They killed innocent people to teach fear.”
LeBaron said this is not the first time his relatives — an offshoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — have been victims of the drug cartels.
Over 10 years ago, Benjamin LeBaron, the founder of crime-fighting group SOS Chihuahua, and his brother-in-law, Luis Widmar Stubbs, were killed in the neighboring Chihuahua after they led protests over the kidnapping of their 16-year-old brother, Eric. The family refused to pay the $1 million ransom and the young LeBaron was ultimately released.
Benjamin was reportedly kidnapped in the middle of the night by a group who tied his hands and threw him onto a truck. When Luis tried to help him, he was beaten and then thrown in the truck as well. The two were found dead in a cemetery with a bullet wound in the back of the head.
Eric LeBaron (left), who was 16 at the time, was kidnapped in May 2009 by a drug cartel in Mexico who offered a $1 million ransom to the family, who refused and he was eventually freed. But Benjamin LeBaron (middle) and Luis Widmar Stubbs (right), members of the same Mormon offshoot community were gunned down by the cartel.
Several months after the murder, Mexican troops captured the suspected killer, Jose Rodolfo Escajeda.
Escajeda was considered one of the bloodiest hitmen in the crime-ridden state of Chihuahua and a leader of the powerful Juarez cartel, Reuters reported.
“They are isolated events,” LeBaron said. “But these are the bad spirits of bad people wanting control … there is an incredible evil here. I do not know what you call this. If they are using us to make a statement, I do not know who it’s for. One cartel towards another.”
LeBaron concluded, “We do not give in.”
He also told CNN Espanol they received calls from organized crime a few months ago with “a kind of threat” but “they were not going to bother us anymore and now they shot us with 3 families…”
Between the three families, 8 children miraculously survived, with some suffering injuries.
Clockwise from top left: Dawna Langford, Trevor Langford, Rogan Langford, Christina Marie Langford Johnson, Kristal Miller, Rhonita Maria Miller and twins Titus and Tiana, and Howard Miller. (GoFundMe)
Alfonso Durazo, Mexico’s top security official, said that six children were wounded in the attack, with five transferred to hospitals in Phoenix, Ariz.
All the victims are understood to be members of the extended LeBaron family, who live in a religious community in La Mora, northern Mexico, a decades-old settlement in Sonora state founded as part of an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around 70 miles south of Douglas, Ariz.
Relatives said the group was attacked while traveling in a convoy of three SUVs. Durazo said the gunmen may have mistaken the SUV convoy for rival gangs. He said the Sinaloa cartel has an important presence in the area, but is fighting for the territory with rivals.
Trump, in a tweet following the attack, called on Mexico to wage “war” on the drug cartels.
“This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth,” he wrote. “We merely await a call from your great new president!”
But Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador later responded: “The worst thing you can have is war.”
Fox News’ Danielle Wallace, Stephen Sorace, Robert Gearty, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.