Mexico Mormon family attack, At least five dead, including infants.
Nine members of a Mormon family – three mums and six children – were killed in a massacre in Mexico when they were allegedly caught in the crossfire of rival drug cartels.
Seventeen family members were travelling to a wedding in a convoy of SUVs when they were “ambushed” about 70 miles south of the US border.
Mum Rhonita Maria LeBaron, 33, was “slaughtered” along with her six-month-old twin babies, Titus and Tiana, and two other children – Crystal, eight, and Howard, 10 – and the others were allegedly taken hostage and found several miles away.
Relatives feared Ms LeBaron and her children were alive when their bullet-riddled SUV was allegedly set on fire and exploded.
Another mum, Christina Johnson, 31, is said to have saved her seven-month-old baby girl, Faith, as she was shot dead.
The other three who died were named as mum Dawna Langford and two of her children – three-year-old Rogan and 11-year-old Trevor.
Eight of her children survived, including a 13-year-old boy who ran for miles to get help, a seven-year-old boy who was shot in the face, and a 10-month-old baby who was grazed by at least one bullet.
A girl that survived was shot in the back as she ran away, it is claimed.
The victims belonged to the LeBaron family from a break-away Mormon community that settled in northern Mexico decades ago. Many, if not all, of the victims were dual US-Mexico citizens.
Relative and local anti-crime activist Julian LeBaron was left distraught after visiting the scene, just a few miles from the Mormon settlement, and seeing the charred bodies inside the burned-out van on Monday.
He said the victims were innocent and were caught up in a war involving rival drug cartels, suggesting it was a case of mistaken identity.
He told Milenio TV: “This was a mistake. We do not know why.
“They are innocent women and children. They were going to see relatives. It is terrible.”
The massacre happened as the family members travelled in three SUVs from the small town of Bavispe, in the state of Sonora, to the Mormon community of LaBaron, in the neighbouring state of Chihuahua.
Grief-stricken relative Leah Staddon, who grew up in the Mormon community of Bavispe, said the three mothers and children were travelling in three vehicles to a wedding.
She said her nephew’s wife – Rhonita Maria LeBaron, also known as Maria Rhonita Miller – and four of the woman’s children – twin babies Tiana and Titus, and older siblings Crystal and Howard – died when their vehicle was attacked.
Ms Staddon, who lives in Queen Creek, Arizona, said her brother found the bullet-riddled vehicle still smouldering with the mum and children’s charred bodies inside and he recorded video as evidence.
Ms Staddon said her sister-in-law Dawna Langford, 43, and cousin Christina Johnson (also known as Christina Langford ), 31, were travelling in separate SUVs and were also killed.
She told the Arizona Republic newspaper: “It’s devastating. It’s incomprehensible, the evil. I don’t understand how someone could do that.”
Ms Langford was travelling in a second vehicle with nine children.
After gunmen killed Ms Langford and two of her kids – Trevor, 11, and Rogan, three – they opened a door and saw more children inside and let them go, said Ms Staddon.
Ms Johnson was travelling in a third car with her seven-month-old daughter, Faith, who was found alive in the back of the vehicle.
The mum was hailed a hero in the aftermath, with family members saying she saved Faith, who was “thrown on the floor”.
Ms Langford’s 13-year-old son, Devin, hid the younger children – some of whom were wounded and bleeding – under a tree and then ran about five miles to the family’s ranch to raise the alarm after his mum and some of his siblings were murdered, according to family.
Ms Staddon pleaded for help from US authorities, writing in a Facebook post: “They are doing all they can in Mexico and we need America’s help.
“Please help get the word out.
“We need to get them all back home safe also do not travel to Mexico!