Suspect Held in Mormon 's Deadly Ambush
A year after the assault, no one was accused of the murder, raging relatives and putting more doubt on Mexican justice.
MEXICO CITY — A year after the nine-member Mormon family massacre in northern Mexico, a suspect was arrested on murder charges linked to the crime, Mexican authorities said.
The man, whom the authorities named as "Alfredo 'L'" and a member of a criminal gang operating in northern Mexico, was detained in Ciudad Juárez's border town on Wednesday, exactly one year after gunmen ambushed the family as they were driving in a convoy along an isolated desert road in Sonora state.
The nine victims included six children and three women, all dual Mexican and American citizens living in the neighborhood they were targeted.
Nobody was implicated of the murders that shocked Mexico and the U.S. The case remained a blot on President Andrés Manuel López Obrador 's presidency, failing to pursue an appropriate solution to reducing the country's abuse.
Mexican police, in a short statement advertising the arrest, gave little details about the suspect, who they said was a "likely participant in the events of November 4, 2019."
According to Mexico's attorney general's office, 12 people were detained in connection with the crime but only two of them, including the one arrested this week, were charged with murder. Other 10 face charges, including unlawful use of guns and organized crime, officials said.
Far from welcoming the recent conviction, members of the extended family shared profound sadness, resentment and indignation that no one was accused of the murders a year after the murder of their relatives.
"It's completely furious," said Julian LeBarón, the first cousin of two women killed in the attack, in an interview on Thursday. "The government's simplest thing in the world to say, 'We know who did it and we're trying to apprehend them all,' but it's almost difficult to take anyone to jail for murder."
He said authorities' failure to solve the crime simply underlined the shortcomings in Mexican law enforcement and justice systems and the degree to which they were compromised by malfeasance. Mexico's few murders result with prosecution.
"It's so clear to everyone with common sense that you don't get virtually 100% impunity without a rottenness and incompetence that has weakened the institutions to their core," said Mr. LeBarón, 42, who headed a high-profile effort to persuade the Mexican authorities and the president's administration to settle the case.
Family members were ambushed while traveling in three sport utility vehicles in a remote area of Sonora where in the early 20th century Mormon sects who broke from the core U.S. church started settling.
The authorities indicated in the days after the attack that it may have been a case of mistaken identity and that they were investigating the likelihood that it was linked to a dispute between two criminal gangs competing for control of the area and its lucrative trade routes for narcotics, arms and other contraband.
Since the plaintiffs held American citizenship and also traveled between the two nations, Mexican authorities promised to allow their U.S. counterparts full access to their investigation files.
When Mr. López Obrador assumed office in 2018, he promised to end the drugs war of his predecessors, an approach focused on the military. Instead, he vowed to solve the causes of violence by tackling poverty through social development services and investment — a policy he dubbed "hugs, not bullets."
And still, the campaign hasn't dramatically decreased the count of national homicide.
Asked if he felt there was much to applaud about the current indictment in connection with his family's situation, Mr. LeBarón said, "We've understood who the top dogs are, and that's not one."
He said the case's publicity, which made world headlines, left him feeling obligated to speak up for other families and pressure the government to do more to minimize the nation's crime.
"It's been 366 days since my cousins — and their children — were assassinated, and if they can't fix this crime, just think what it's like for the families who can't sit with the president, they can't ask America for support," he stated. "The way we can make it appear we have 10 times more obligation to speak out."