Mormon families fleeing Mexico arrive in Arizona days after cartel massacre

Mexico Cartel Ap

More than 500 chairs were arranged in neat rows for the mourners, who travelled in convoys from both sides of the Mexico-US border for the first funeral on Thursday, for Dawna Ray Langford, 43, and her sons Trevor and Rogan. She was killed along with two of Devin's younger brothers, 11-year-old Trevor Langford and 2-year-old Rogan Langford.

Unknown gunmen killed three mothers and six children from families with Mormon roots and U.S.

"They knew they were women and children and still they attacked them, and after attacking them they set them on fire", one community leader, Julian LeBaron, told journalists.

The three mothers and 14 children were in three vehicles that left from a small village in Sonora to meet with relatives in neighboring Chihuahua state and Phoenix, Arizona.

Although the American families' attachment to Mexico runs deep and they are unlikely to uproot from one day to the next, some say they were spending more time north of the border to escape Mexico's violence even before this week's killings.

The families, members of breakaway Mormon communities that settled in northern Mexico decades ago, were set upon as they drove along a remote dirt road in Sonora state.

"One of the dearest things to our lives is the safety of our family", said Langford.

"The eyes of the world are upon what happened here, and there are saints all over this world whose hearts have been touched", Dawna's father, Jay Ray, said in a eulogy quoted by the Associated Press.

"I just think the innocence is gone", Darger said. "I usually am a very forgiving guy, but this kind of atrocity has no place in a civilised community".

"My children were brutally, brutally murdered", he said, "and my beloved wife". But several are still recovering, including 8-year-old Cody, who according to a relative, will not be able to talk for six weeks following surgery where his jaw had to be wired shut.

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

More news: The world's billionaires saw their wealth decline by $388 billion a year ago

"She gave her life to try and save the rest", Miller wrote.

In a grassy backyard before hundreds of attendees, she was eulogized as an "innocent spirit, handsome heart" and a woman whose laugh "could light up a room".

Son Howard Jr. loved basketball and recently was delighted to make his first three-pointer; daughter Kristal was "the apple of her daddy's eye;" twins Titus and Tiana, born March 13, were remembered as "two flawless angels in the first precious moments of their lives".

Clad in suits or modest dresses, hundreds embraced in grief under white tents erected in the hamlet as a mother and her two sons were the first to be laid to rest.

No official explanation has been given for the killings, though the Mexican government said the victims may have been caught in the crossfire of a bloody turf war between an arm of the Sinaloa Cartel and its rival, the Juarez Cartel.

Who carried out the attack?

While the sibling community of Colonia LeBaron has been peaceful since the 2009 murder of one of its members and subsequent installation of a security base, La Mora lacks such a presence - at least until Monday's killings prompted state and federal forces to deploy to protect those who came to mourn.

"They didn't get far before realizing they would be risking death, since there had been continual shooting for hours, all over the mountains near LaMora", Miller said.

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

Indeed, Mexico's latest tragedy in the long fight against cartel violence is viewed by some as a sign its "hugs, not bullets" security strategy - focused on combating social problems - has done little to wrest large chunks of the country from the grip of criminal organizations.

"A lot of people are going to leave".

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