Mormons mourn last of nine massacre victims in Mexico, head for safer pastures in U.S. under renewed

Mormons mourn last of nine massacre victims in Mexico, head for safer pastures in U.S. under renewed


Polygamist Mormon David Langford, after burying a wife and two children, is leading a mass family evacuation from Mexico  He’s leaving behind hundreds of acres of pecan orchards and the land where he grew up, driven out by last week’s drug cartel slaughter of nine members of his breakaway sect The last victim of the ruthless killers was laid to rest Saturday, five days after she was gunned down despite waving her empty hands to indicate that she posed no threat Advertisement  “They’re scared for their lives,” Langford’s sister Leah Langford-Stadden told the Daily News on Saturday “They’re leaving everything behind. It’s an exodus.”  David Langford was already standing vigil in a Tucson hospital, where five children shot or otherwise wounded in the savage ambush were recovering — including a baby who took a bullet to the chest  As Langford mourned the murders of wife Dawna Ray and their two young sons, he was not left alone: His plural wife, Margaret, sat beside him at the Thursday funeral in La Mora, a high-desert hamlet in Sonora, Mexico, known as a sanctuary for polygamist Mormon families  Margaret was among those heading north Saturday to the Arizona border just 70 miles away, according to Langford-Stadden The slain Dawna Ray, killed with two sons ages 11 and 2, was survived by 11 children  “It’s beyond comprehension,” added Langford-Stadden, who was born in La Mora in 1981 “It’s horrible. It’s a paradise lost, for sure. It’s heartbreaking.”  Outspoken polygamist Joe Darger, considered the inspiration for the HBO series “Big Love,” drove down to La Mora shortly after learning of the mass shooting in a brazen Monday attack on a rural road  His daughter Laura married into the La Mora-based Langford family in 2011, followed by son Grayson in April Darger described the place as an idyllic south of the border refuge where American-style houses on well-paved streets are surrounded by immaculate pecan orchards and herds of cattle  “When the community moved here, it was a safe place to be free and live our faith unencumbered,” Darger told The News “It was a safe haven. It definitely is not going to ever be the same.”  La Mora, made up of several large families, is one of the fundamentalist Mormon colonies started generations ago as a refuge for those who consider polygamy an intrinsic element of their faith Some were determined to keep the faith in Mexico regardless of the threat.  “I believe three families are staying for now, the next week three weeks,” said Langford-Stadden, 38, of Queen Creek, Ariz “Not entirely sure who is staying for good, if there are any families. Our father is everything to us I think if we didn’t have that, if we didn’t have the faith that we do, this would be so much harder to bear ”  The extended clan now living in La Mora has strong ties to the storied Colonia LeBaron in neighboring Chihuahua — started by Alma Dayer LeBaron, a prominent Mormon leader who broke with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1920s over his support of plural marriage  The church disavowed the practice in 1890, and polygamy remains illegal in all 50 U S. states.  Two of the murdered La Mora moms — Rhonita Maria Miller, 30, and Christina Marie Langford Johnson, 31 — had deep roots in Colonia LeBaron and were due for burial with Miller’s four murdered kids  Miller’s sister-in-law Kendra Lee Miller, 27, grew up in La Mora and recently shared on social media that she was due to marry Zack Laub this coming Monday and become his second wife Advertisement  “I’m taking this step with eyes wide open, aware of the challenges and also the blessings living in a plural marriage can bring, and I choose all of it,” she wrote on Instagram  Some close to the nine killed last Monday have spoken up to make clear the victims had absolutely no connection to that chapter of the LeBaron family history  “We are receiving a lot of hateful comments because of the religious beliefs of many of our ancestors Do those of you who hate polygamy so badly not believe in freedom of religion?” Vicky Rogers LeBaron asked in a lengthy Facebook post  Vicky said she baby-sat shooting victims Rhonita and Christina as babies and was tight with Dawna Ray since childhood  Neither U.S. nor Mexican officials have confirmed a motive for the roadside attack And as the families wait for answers that might never come, Darger says, they’re considering their options  While “circumstantial evidence” suggests the women and children were collateral damage in a bloody turf war between a Juarez drug cartel in Chihuahua and the Sinaloa cartel, Darger envisions something more ominous  “This was a deliberate attack on innocent women and children,” he said. “It was no accident We just don’t know if it was an attack on this specific community or just something to terrorize people in general ”  While a strong Mexican police presence descended on La Mora to ensure peace during the funerals, it wasn’t clear how long the security forces might stay — or if more violence might ensue Either way, Darger’s daughter — who moves between homes in Utah and La Mora — will be keeping her kids in the U S. Langford-Stadden, whose family found its way to the enclave nearly five decades ago, said it was possible that she’d seen the last of La Mora  “It’s just not worth it to me,” she told The News. “The memories and the connection to it is not worth (it) ”  With News Wire Services

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