Life in the LeBaron Mormon stronghold: Mexico community that lost three mothers and six children in cartel massacre was founded by U.S. citizens fleeing a polygamy ban and has been blighted by drug violence, murder and abuse for decades
- Nine members of the LeBaron family were killed by cartel gunmen on Monday
- Their deaths sent shockwaves around the world and even led to President Donald Trump offering to help Mexico ‘wage war’ on the drug cartels
- But it would not be the first time the break-away church has been attacked
- In fact the extended community has already faced cartel violence and killings
- It has also been plagued by murders between their own family members
- As recently as 2010, two members of the Chihuahua Mormon community, including one from the LeBaron family, were killed in an apparent revenge attack
- And in 2016 one former resident detailed a harsh life inside the community
- LeBaron was founded as an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after the church abandoned the practice of polygamy in the 1800s
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The Mormon stronghold in Mexico founded by U.S. citizens fleeing a polygamy ban, where three families were just slaughtered by drugs cartels, has been blighted by violence and murders for years.
The families were members of the La Mora settlement, a century-old community in Mexico’s Sonora state that was founded by the LeBaron family as a fundamentalist offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
On Monday, at least six children and three women were murdered when a Mexican gang opened fire on their convoy of three SUVS on a dirt road. The victims include Rhonita Maria LeBaron and her four children, Dawna Ray Langford, 43, and Christina Marie Langford, 31.
Their deaths sent shockwaves around the world and even led to President Donald Trump offering to help Mexico ‘wage war’ on the drug cartels and ‘wipe them off the face of the earth’.
But it would not be the first time that members of the break-away church had been attacked in northern Mexico.
In fact, the extended community has already faced cartel violence and killings, as well as murders between their own family members.
As recently as 2010, two members of the Chihuahua Mormon community, including one from the LeBaron family, were killed in apparent revenge after security forces tracked drug gang members.
The Mormons had suffered widespread kidnappings before that. Their large houses and lifestyle had made them appear rich to drug gangs, Vice reported in 2012.
And in 2016 former resident Ruth Wariner detailed life inside the community, describing 41 siblings, constant beatings, a house with no electricity and no modern plumbing.
At least three American mothers and six children from a Mormon community based in northern Mexico have been massacred in an attack blamed on drug cartel gunmen. Maria Rhonita Miller was killed along with her six-month-old twins, Titus and Tiana (left and right), her 10-year-old daughter Krystal (left) and 12-year-old son Howard (center)
The nine women and children killed by drug cartel gunmen in northern Mexico lived in a remote farming community where residents with dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship consider themselves Mormon. Many are descended from former members of The Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints who fled the U.S. to escape the church’s 19th century ban on polygamy
A video posted on social media showed the charred remains of one of the vehicles riddled with bullet holes that was apparently carrying the victims when the attack happened
Founded as part of an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after the church abandoned the practice of polygamy in the late 1800s, some polygamous Mormons moved to Mexico to set up new colonies.
The LeBaron family was founded by Alma Dayer LeBaron. He set up the community with his family in 1924 after being excommunicated from the church.
Alma passed the leadership over to his son Joel when he died in 1951. He subsequently incorporated the community as part of Salt Lake City’ Church of the Firstborn.
His younger brother Ervil was his second in charge at the time. The brothers later fell out over the leadership of the community and Ervil went on to set up another sect in San Diego, California in 1972.
Evril, who had at least 13 wives, had Joel killed in 1972. He was tried and convicted in Mexico for Joel’s murder in 1974.
While in prison, he wrote the 400-page commandment to kill disobedient church members who were included in a hit list.
Evril died in prison in 1981 but six family members organized ‘four o’clock’ murders, which saw an eight-year-old child and three former members shot dead within minutes of each other in Texas in 1988.
Medical personnel of the Health Secretary and of the Mexican Air Force transfering five members of the Lebaron family after being injured during an gunmen ambush in the limits of Sonora and Chihuahua in Hermosillo. President Donald Trump offered Tuesday to help Mexico “wage war” on its cartels after three women and six children from an American Mormon community were murdered in an area notorious for drug traffickers
A car passes through Colonia LeBaron. Drug cartel gunmen ambushed three vehicles along a road near the state border of Chihuahua and Sonora, slaughtering at least nine from the extended LeBaron family, all of them U.S. citizens living in northern Mexico, authorities said
His son Heber was held in connection with slayings in Texas and Utah in the 1980s. Another sons, Aaron, was jailed for 45 years in a conviction connected to the murders.
Cartel open fire on Mormon family killing nine – as police arrest a suspected drug lord
Nine members of the LeBaron family were attacked eight miles apart on Monday while traveling in a convoy of three SUVS on a dirt road. Police confirmed they have arrested a suspected drug lord after the killings which left one vehicle torched and riddled with bullets.
The mothers were driving in separate vehicles with their children from the La Mora religious community where they live, a decades-old settlement in Sonora state populate by less than 1,000 people.
Rhonita Maria LeBaron, died along with her six-month-old twins and her two other children, aged 10 and 12. Christina Langford Johnson, Dawna Langford and two of Dawna’s children, aged 11 and three, were also killed.
Kendra Lee Miller, whose sister-in-law Rhonita Maria Miller died in the attack, said: ‘They were driving together for safety reasons.’
One of Evril’s daughter Anna LeBaron said: ‘My father would order mob-style hits and those would be carried out by his cult members if they stopped believing in him or his practice or religion and left, or sometimes it was rival cult leaders that were blood-atoned for being false prophets.’
While many La Mora residents, where the victims lived, identify as Mormon, they also consider themselves independent from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Cristina Rosetti, a Mormon fundamentalism scholar and expert.
Many of the families living in the area known for growing cotton and grain trace their La Mora origins to the 1950s – and some have much deeper roots.
A La Mora resident who spoke on condition of anonymity said his great grandfather settled there in the late 1890s or early 1900s after leaving the U.S. and was later run back across the border by Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa.
The great grandfather didn’t return, but the resident’s grandfather moved back to La Mora in the 1950s along with others, said the resident, who feared that he could be targeted by the cartel if he was identified.
Although many La Mora residents believe in mainstream Mormonism tenets, they also believe ‘they shouldn’t be forming churches, they shouldn’t be organizing under one leader. They should just be Mormon and live their Mormon life. That’s who the people of La Mora are,’ Rosetti said.
Some of the families living there still practice polygamy while others stopped generations ago, she said.
Ruth Wariner lived on Colonia LeBaron until she ran away at the age of 15 – and took her three younger siblings with her. Her father was murdered when she was three-years-old and her mother was quickly married off to another man in the community.
That’s when the beatings began, she says. And, eventually, repeated sexual abuse.
Wariner said the church taught the women to turn a blind eye, believing marriage was their only ticket into ‘the kingdom of heaven’.
Benjamin LeBaron, left, and Luis Widmar Stubbs, right, who are members of the same Mormon community as the family killed on Monday by a Mexican cartel, were also murdered by drug lords 10 years ago for denouncing cartel kidnappings
Relatives and friends carry the coffins of Mormon activist Benjamin LeBaron and his brother-in-law Luis Carlos Widmar during their funeral in Galeana, State of Chihuahua in July 2009
Heber LeBaron covers his face with a bible while he and his half brother Douglas Barlow leave a court hearing in 1988. The two men were the sons of polygamist sect leader, the late Ervil LeBaron. LeBaron and his Church of the Lamb of God were linked to slayings from Utah to Mexico and the LeBaron brothers are being held in connection with slayings in Texas and Utah
The shooting occurred near the town of Bavispe between Sonora and Chihuahua, pictured
Many Mormons in Mexico enjoy dual Mexican and American citizenship.
Mexico has registered more than 250,000 murders since the government controversially deployed the army to fight drug trafficking in 2006.
Ervil LeBaron who had at least 13 wives, had his brother Joel killed in 1972. He was tried and convicted in Mexico for Joel’s murder two years later
Many experts blame the ‘drug war’ for spiraling violence, as fragmented cartels battle each other and the army.
Mexican Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said the nine, traveling in several SUVs, may have been victims of mistaken identity, given the high number of violent confrontations among warring drug gangs in the area.
But the LeBaron extended family has often been in conflict with drug traffickers in Chihuahua and a relative of the victims said the killers surely knew who they were targeting.
‘We’ve been here for more than 50 years. There’s no-one who doesn’t know them. Whoever did this was aware. That’s the most terrifying,’ said Alex LeBaron, a relative, in one of the villages inhabited by the extended family.
Eric Hawkins, spokesman for the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said it understood the victims were not members of the institution, but that the church was ‘heartbroken’ over the attack.
‘Our love, prayers and sympathies are with them as they mourn and remember their loved ones,’ Hawkins said in a statement.
Father of woman executed by Mexican drug cartel reveals three of his nephews were kidnapped and two of them murdered by drug lords 10 years ago – as he blasts the killers for trying to stoke terror in their Mormon community
The father of one of three American women executed by a Mexican cartel says two of his nephews were also murdered by drug lords 10 years ago and another was kidnapped.
Adrián LeBaron on Tuesday blasted the Mexican cartel for trying to stoke terror in the Mormon community in the wake of Monday’s grisly attack on his daughter and grandchildren in the Mexican border state of Sonora.
The nine victims, who all belong to the LeBaron family, were massacred by cartel gunmen while traveling in a convoy of three SUVs along a dirt road.
Authorities say the gunmen ambushed their vehicles as the family traveled from the La Mora religious community where they live, which is a decades-old settlement founded as an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Adrián’s daughter Rhonita Maria LeBaron and four of her children, including her six-month-old twins, a 10-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son, were gunned down.
Another two mothers, Dawna Langford and Christina Langford Johnson, as well as Dawna’s sons, aged 11 and three, were also all killed.
Speaking from the scene where his daughter and grandchildren were murdered, Adrián told DailyMail.com that the cartel gunmen ‘killed innocent people to teach fear’.
He said it was the second time his family and members of the break-away church had been targeted by cartel gunmen in northern Mexico.
Two of his nephews were killed and another was kidnapped back in 2009.
Eric LeBaron, who was 16 at the time, was kidnapped in May 2009 by a drug cartel. His family turned down a $1 million ransom demand and Eric was eventually freed
Eric LeBaron, who was 16 at the time, was kidnapped in May 2009. His kidnapping sparked protests about lawlessness in the region. His family turned down a $1 million ransom demand and Eric was eventually freed.
Months later, Eric’s brother Benjamin LeBaron and brother-in-law Luis Widmar Stubbs were murdered.
Benjamin, who was an anti-crime activist, was killed in retaliation for speaking out publicly about his younger brother’s abduction, according to his relatives.
He was kidnapped in the middle of the night by a group who had tied his hands and threw him onto a truck. His brother-in-law and neighbor, Luis, had tried to help him. He was beaten and then thrown on the truck as well.
Both Benjamin and Luis were later found dead in a cemetery. They had both been shot in the back of the head.
‘They are isolated events. But these are the bad spirits of bad people wanting control. It an evil energy, force, that exists in our surroundings and it is the second time they’ve killed (one) of us,’ Adrián said.
‘It is not an attack against our community, what we have here is a protest. They are making a statement and I do not know towards who. However, they killed my daughter with that purpose.
‘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.’
He called the attack of his daughter and grandchildren ‘premeditated’.
‘There is no mistake here. Here they killed innocent people to teach fear,’ he said.
‘Just as in 2009, we did not want to pay a ransom, we have never accepted when they harass you, when they extort you. I do not tell that group, I’m telling any group that exists in our Mexico that we do not give in.’