The nine U.S. citizens who were killed in a brutal ambush by drug cartel gunmen Monday while traveling in Mexico belonged to a Mormon offshoot group that has been touched by cartel violence before, NBC News reports.
The group was part of the extended LeBaron family, Mormon fundamentalists who first came to Mexico nearly a century ago — when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City started cracking down on members who were still practicing polygamy.
To escape persecution in the U.S., Alma Dayer LeBaron brought his wives and children across the border to Mexico in 1924 and founded the LeBaron colony in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. It was there in 2009 that drug cartels took another member of the family, anti-crime activist Benjamin LeBaron, for ransom, and murdered him.
While the LeBarons' fundamentalist offshoot group is distinct from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Paul Reeve, Simmons professor of Mormon studies at the University of Utah, there are many Mormons in Mexico: The Salt Lake City-headquartered church currently claims over a million members there.