Mexico Mormon family has tearful Christmas after cartel murders

By Lizbeth Diaz COLONIA LEBARON, Mexico (Reuters) - Surrounded by dozens of his descendants, Adrian LeBaron gave thanks to God as he prepared to celebrate Christmas for the first time since suspected Mexican drug cartel hitmen murdered his daughter and four grandchildren last month. The patriarch of a large family of U.S.-Mexican Mormon origin, LeBaron was thrust into the media spotlight when gunmen shot dead nine women and children in the northern state of Sonora on Nov.

Reuters December 28, 2019 01:11:06 IST
Mexico Mormon family has tearful Christmas after cartel murders

Mexico Mormon family has tearful Christmas after cartel murders

By Lizbeth Diaz

COLONIA LEBARON, Mexico (Reuters) - Surrounded by dozens of his descendants, Adrian LeBaron gave thanks to God as he prepared to celebrate Christmas for the first time since suspected Mexican drug cartel hitmen murdered his daughter and four grandchildren last month.

The patriarch of a large family of U.S.-Mexican Mormon origin, LeBaron was thrust into the media spotlight when gunmen shot dead nine women and children in the northern state of Sonora on Nov. 4, sparking outrage on both sides of the border.

LeBaron, who has 35 living children, 87 grandchildren and a great-grandson, cried as he remembered his daughter Rhonita Miller, 30, whose charred body was found after the massacre in a torched vehicle on a rugged dirt track near her home.

"We thank you for giving us the strength to withstand the things that have brought pain to our souls," the 58-year-old said in Spanish standing next to Shalom, Rhonita's mother.

Before the family sat down for a dinner of roast turkey and Mexican food, mementos of Rhonita and her dead children adorned his spacious hilltop home in the northern state of Chihuahua with a commanding view of surrounding farms and walnut groves.

As the night ended, LeBaron sang a song to Rhonita in memory of their last dance at a Mexican celebration in September.

Her sister Lian sported a bracelet made of two pacifiers used by Rhonita's slain seven-month old twins Titus and Tiana, while other family members wore rings made of metal taken from the wreckage of the SUV in which the family was killed.

Lian son's Xavier thought of his dead cousin, Howard, 12.

"I miss him so much," the boy said.

Mexico has arrested several suspects linked to the massacre, which investigators believe pitched the women and children into a dispute between warring drug cartels. Gang violence in Mexico has claimed more than 200,000 lives in the past 12 years.

Dressed for scenes from the Nativity and in Christmas garb, cousins of the departed children sang carols in English amid Mexican flags that pointed to their bi-national roots.

"I'm happy to see them all play, but a part of me is dead, asleep," said Shalom LeBaron, one of four women to have borne Adrian children, including 12 of her own. At length, she raised her hands to her eyes, unable to contain the tears.

"They took away their chance to live," she wept.

CONSTANT THREAT

The LeBarons first came to Mexico in the early 20th century when their polygamist beliefs brought them into conflict with U.S. authorities. Ever since Adrian's grandfather founded the village of Colonia LeBaron in 1941, violent organised crime groups have been a threat to their farming activities, he said.

Though the family prospered by growing walnuts, peppers and cotton, the rule of law in the sparsely-populated arid expanses of the borderlands has remained weak, posing constant security challenges. Some have even taken to arming themselves.

"Life isn't life if you're being threatened. My message to the world and to my children is that you have to fight to know that you're free," LeBaron said.

Like dozens of his relatives, Adrian LeBaron said he will keep pushing the Mexican government until those responsible for the brutal massacre have been brought to justice.

He believes Mexico must work closely with the United States if it is to get a grip on record levels of gang violence.

But the native of Chihuahua is also a patriotic Mexican.

"You're from where your family grows up, where you bury your dead," he said. "What more right could I have if they're here?"

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who met members of the family after the massacre, sought U.S. cooperation, inviting the FBI to help in the investigation. But he has firmly rejected any U.S. "intervention" in Mexico.

"Fear has stopped people from reacting," said Adrian's cousin Julian LeBaron, who recovered a baby from the site of the slaughter after the child's mother was killed. "But we're no longer afraid, we'll continue to fight and we'll mobilize."

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Alistair Bell)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

also read

New York, Florida tell hospitals to speed COVID-19 vaccinations or lose supply
World

New York, Florida tell hospitals to speed COVID-19 vaccinations or lose supply

By Carl O'Donnell and Jonathan Allen NEW YORK (Reuters) - The governors of New York and Florida sought to accelerate the slower-than-expected rollout of coronavirus vaccines by warning hospitals on Monday that they would reduce future allocations to those that fail to dispense shots quickly enough. In New York, hospitals must administer vaccines within a week of receiving them or face a fine and loss of future supplies, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. "I don't want the vaccine in a fridge or a freezer, I want it in somebody's arm," the governor said

UK judge rejects extraditing Assange to U.S., citing suicide risk
World

UK judge rejects extraditing Assange to U.S., citing suicide risk

By Michael Holden LONDON (Reuters) - A British judge ruled on Monday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States to face criminal charges including breaking a spying law, saying his mental health problems meant he would be at risk of suicide. U.S. authorities accuse Australian-born Assange, 49, of 18 counts relating to the release by WikiLeaks of vast troves of confidential U.S

Breakthrough reached in Gulf dispute with Qatar -senior Trump official
World

Breakthrough reached in Gulf dispute with Qatar -senior Trump official

By Steve Holland and Aziz El Yaakoubi WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) -A breakthrough has been reached in Qatar's three-year-old dispute with Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries and an agreement aimed at ending their rift is to be signed in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, a senior Trump administration official said. The development is the latest in a series of Middle East deals sought by Washington - the others involving Israel and Arab states - aimed at building a united front against Iran. As part of the deal, Saudi Arabia will reopen its airspace and land and sea border to Qatar as of Monday, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmad Nasser al-Sabah said on Kuwait TV ahead of a Gulf Arab summit in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.