Mexican authorities said Wednesday that a man they had arrested with a possible connection to the killing for nine members of a family near the U.S. border was not connected after all.
According to CBS News, the Sonora prosecutor’s office reported on Tuesday that the suspect was found with an arsenal of weapons and two bound and gagged hostages. But Secretary of Security Alfonso Durazo said a preliminary investigation indicated that the man and the hostages were unrelated. He did not offer any further information about the arrested man.
The victims in Monday’s attack were three women and six children, all members of a breakaway group that split from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints when the main church ended the practice of polygamy in the late 1800s so that Utah could become a state. The family were members of the La Mora settlement in Mexico’s Sonora state. The group left the settlement in three cars at the same time on Monday, some travelling to the United States and others to a wedding in LeBaron, Mexico, another settlement started by a breakaway group of American Latter Day Saints.The victims were dual Mexican and U.S. citizens.
The attack took place near Bavispe, about 100 miles south of the Arizona border.
Authorities believe Monday’s ambush likely came at the hands of Mexican drug cartel members. Some officials have speculated that the family may have gotten caught in the middle of two rival cartels, but others suspect that the family itself was targeted, noting that the attack was spread over several miles.
According to police, the suspects ambushed one of the vehicles and opened fire close to Rancho La Mora, which lies on the border of Sonora and Chihuahua. So many bullets hit the SUV that the gas tank exploded.
The victims have been identified as mother Rhonita Maria Miller (pictured with her family) and her children, which included infant twins, an 8-year-old, and a 10-year-old.
Around eight miles away, more victims were shot. Some died while some survived. The deceased victims include:
- Dawna Ray Langford, 43
- Christina Marie Langford, 31
- Trevor Langford, 11
- Noah Langford, 3
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that one child was shot down while trying to run away. An infant, identified as 7-month-old Faith Marie Johnson, survived the incident, along with 8-month-old Brixon Oliver Langford, who was shot in the chest.
Other survivors include 14-year-old Kylie Evelyn Langford, who was shot in the foot, and 13-year-old Devin Blake Langford, who reportedly walked around 14 miles to get help.
Mckenzie Rayne Langford, 9, also survived the incident after a bullet grazed his arm. Cody Greyson Langford, 8, was reportedly shot in the jaw and leg. He’s in critical condition, according to family members.
Additional survivors include Xander Boe Langford, 4, who was shot in the back, and Jake Ryder Langford, 6, who was uninjured.
A relative of Devin Langford said that little boy made sure his six siblings were hidden in bushes before he walked by foot for help.
“After witnessing his mother and brothers being shot dead, Devin hid his six other siblings in the bushes and covered them with branches to keep them safe while he went for help. When he took too long to return, his 9-year-old sister left the remaining five to try again.”
Claudia Pavlovich Arellano, the governor of the state of Sonora, vowed to help catch the “monsters” responsible for the attack.
US President Donald Trump, in a tweet, offered the US military “to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth.” but Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador declined, saying it was an internal matter for Mexico to handle.
For the latest true crime and justice news, subscribe to the ‘Crime Stories with Nancy Grace’ podcast. Here is a related episode.
[Feature Photo: Rhonita Maria Miller and family/Facebook]