Mormons leaving after Mexico violence arrive in Arizona


Hundreds of friends and family members gathered in a remote northern Mexican region on Thursday (Nov 7) to mourn the nine American women and children who were slain in a burst of bullets and fire earlier this week.

The family's convoy of SUVs were attacked in Sonora, Mexico as they were driving away from the La Mora community where they lived.

Dawna Ray Langford, 43, and her sons Trevor, 11, and Rogan, 2, were killed in the attack after a hail of bullets struck their SUV on a dirt road leading to another settlement, Colonia LeBaron.

Miller and her children, whose bodies were reduced to ash and bones when the auto they were in was shot at and then went up in flames, are due to remembered in a ceremony in an another village, Colonia LeBaron, on Friday.

In a sign of their hardworking values, Rancho La Mora residents made the victims' simple coffins themselves, hammering the white wood together and sanding it down.

The driver of the second SUV, Christina Marie Langford Johnson, 31, had leapt out of the vehicle to try to alert the gunman that it was only women and children in the SUVs, but she was shot to death, according to post on Facebook from relative Kendra Lee Miller.

-Mexican dual citizenship on Monday, in an attack that spread outrage in both countries and increased USA pressure on Mexico to rein in drug cartels.

Dawna Ray Langford and her sons Trevor, 11, and Rogan, two, were killed in another auto while Christina Langford Johnson, 31, was killed in the third vehicle.

In a raw, tearful service, relatives recounted valiant efforts to try to rescue their loved ones after the ambush, and how some of the children walked miles out of the mountains to the town, situated about 110km south of the Arizona border.

There was no talk of revenge in the deeply religious community, only justice. Search parties later found her, the families said.

"God will take care of the wicked", Jay Ray, Dawna's father, said in a eulogy.

"As of right now, my desire is to take my children and raise them there, but right now I can not", Langford said by phone, citing the instability and dangers around La Mora. "I usually am a very forgiving guy, but this kind of atrocity has no place in a civilised community".

A man was arrested in a nearby town in a truck carrying a.50 calibre Barrett rifle and other military-grade weaponry, but the government later said he was not linked to the murders.

Of the survivors, he said, son Cody had had a plate installed in his jaw, which was being wired shut for six weeks.

"Dawna was a person who was full of life".

"There isn't anything in life that a cup of coffee couldn't make better", Amber said Dawna was fond of saying.

Yanely Ontivelos, 33, said life was still bearable thanks to employment at La Mora, where her husband works as a carpenter.

In a grassy backyard before hundreds of attendees, she was eulogized as an "innocent spirit, attractive heart" and a woman whose laugh "could light up a room". Many residents of the two communities that lie a five-hour, bone-jarring drive apart are related.

Gunmen from the Juarez drug cartel had apparently set up the ambush as part of a turf war with the Sinaloa cartel, and the USA families drove into it. While no official explanation has been given for the killings, Mendoza and other officials say the gang may have mistaken the families' SUVs for those of its rival. Her baby, Faith, survived the attack in a child seat that her mother appeared to have placed on the floor before she got out.

Benjamin LeBaron, founder of a crime-fighting group called SOS Chihuahua, was assassinated in 2009 after he led protests over the kidnapping of his teenage brother, who was released after the family refused to pay a ransom.

To many, the bloodshed seemed to demonstrate once more that the government has lost control over vast areas of Mexico to drug traffickers.

"They shot us up, burned our vehicles to send a smoke signal into the sky", Langford said, arguing that the gang's goal was to draw the Sinaloa gunmen into battle. "And to have to up and leave from one day to the next and leave all that behind, there's definitely a lot of sad people here".