Another arrest has been made in the 2019 murders that rocked a family. Although multiple arrests have been made, no one has been convicted of the brutal ambush murders of 9 Mormon family members who were all traveling together to a wedding in Mexico. The newest arrest begs the question; when will the surviving family members see justice?
A Volatile Region
In November of 2019, the LeBarón family was traveling together in a three-car caravan to attend a wedding in Mexico. A family of fundamentalist Mormons, the LeBaróns were all dual citizens; America and Mexico. But the region they reside in, and were traveling through, has a singular reputation for being the center of drug cartel wars. Although the LeBaróns and other Mormons have existed in relative peace in their La Mora community nestled in the Sonora region of Mexico, the cartel violence has escalated in recent years.
Mexican authorities have suggested that the LeBarón family was simply accidentally caught in the midst of a cartel shoot-out between drug lords in Sonora and neighboring competitors in Chihuahua. Critics, however, suggest a more nefarious motive; they believe the family was intentionally targeted, to send a message to the cartel which controls Sonora.
An Uneasy Truce with Drug Traffickers
Per the Washington Post, “La Mora was established in the 1950s, part of a movement of fundamentalist Mormons who broke away from the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For decades, they remained largely cut off from the United States and the rest of Mexico, without electricity or running water. Children welded their own bicycles with metal rods.
…But amid the idyll, the residents of La Mora recognized their community’s strategic importance. It was directly off an unpatrolled dirt road that led to the United States border, a gem in the crown of any trafficker.”
Residents say they had an uneasy truce with the traffickers. As long as they stayed out of each other’s way, they could reside peacefully side by side. They exchanged services and goods with the cartels running Sonora, and contributed to their economic wellbeing. It’s thought that this symbiotic relationship is why the Chihuahua traffickers may have targeted the LeBaróns.
In November of 2019, as the LeBarón family drove their caravan through Sonora, the uneasy truce was shattered. In the months proceeding the slayings, tensions had begun to rise in the region. Sonora cartel members demanded La Mora residents stop doing business with neighboring Chihuahua, and the familiar faces the LeBarón family was used to seeing around were exchanged by jumpier, more violent men at local checkpoints. It all led the La Mora residents to a feeling of unease and anticipation.
As the family drove down a remote road that fateful day, they were ambushed by an unknown number of assailants. They sprayed the three-car caravan with gunfire. So many bullets were fired into the cars that one SUV exploded.
People reports, “The victims included Christina Marie Langford Johnson, 29; Dawna Langford, 43; Trevor Langford, 11; and Rogan Langford, 2. Also killed were Rhonita Miller, 30; Howard Miller, 12; Krystal Miller, 10; and the 8-month-old twins, Titus and Tiana Miller.
Eight children survived the attack. Some of the survivors were seriously wounded, including a 9-month-old who was shot in the chest and a 4-year-old shot in the back.”
Two children were found wandering later, and one recounted that gunmen had chased him into the brush, firing bullets, as he fled the horrifying scene.
Arrests Trickle In, But LeBarón Family Feels Justice is Being Avoided
Since the horrific murders, 12 suspects have been arrested, including the arrest made this week. 10 of them have been accused of weapons and drug charges, and only 2 are accused of murder. Surviving members of the LeBarón family have cried foul. They believe that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is arresting low-level thugs to appear productive while refusing to shake the bush and take on the high-level cartel members responsible for giving the order to massacre the LeBarón family members. The LeBaróns have appealed to US outgoing President Donald J Trump for help, making international relation watchdogs nervous. They worry that ramped up rhetoric on Trump’s part could increase the likelihood of military clashes at the border between Mexico and the US.
Regardless of Trump’s involvement, the problem remains: justice has yet to be done in the case of these horrifying murders.
Per the New York Times, “Far from celebrating the latest arrest, members of the extended family expressed deep disappointment, frustration and anger about the fact that a year after the murder of their relatives, nobody had been convicted of the crimes.
‘It’s absolutely infuriating,’ Julian LeBarón, the first cousin of two of the women killed in the attack, said in an interview on Thursday. ‘It’s the easiest thing in the world for the government to say, ‘We know who did it and we’re going to catch them all,’ but it’s almost impossible to send someone to prison for murder.’
He said the inability of the authorities to solve the crime clearly underscored the weaknesses of the Mexican law enforcement and justice systems and the degree to which they were undermined by malfeasance. Very few homicides in Mexico end in a conviction.
‘It’s so obvious to anyone with common sense that you don’t get to almost 100 percent impunity without a rottenness and corruption that’s eroded the institutions to their core,’ said Mr. LeBarón, 42.”