- Title: Mexico Mormon family has tearful Christmas after cartel murders
- Date: 27th December 2019
- Summary: COLONIA LEBARON, CHIHUAHUA, MEXICO (DECEMBER 24, 2019) (REUTERS) YOUNGSTERS / CHILDREN DRESSED FOR SCENES FROM THE NATIVITY AND IN CHRISTMAS GARB LITTLE GIRL TAKING A PHOTO WITH A MOBILE PHONE VARIOUS OF YOUNGSTERS / CHILDREN DRESSED FOR SCENES FROM THE NATIVITY AND IN CHRISTMAS GARB VARIOUS OF FAMILY MEMBERS SINGING KARAOKE CHRISTMAS / POP SONGS
- Embargoed: 10th January 2020 23:22
- Keywords: Christmas LeBaron Mormon family
- Location: COLONIA LEBARON, CHIHUAHUA, MEXICO
- City: COLONIA LEBARON, CHIHUAHUA, MEXICO
- Country: Mexico
- Topics: Crime/Law/Justice,Crime,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA002BBR4YTJ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: 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.
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.
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.
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 organized 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.
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.
(Production: Alexandre Meneghini)
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