Although President López Obrador announced that the investigation into last fall’s ambush and murder of members of the LeBaron family in Sonora is almost complete, Julian LeBaron begs to differ.
Nine members of his extended family, three women and six children, were shot to death while traveling in Sonora in November 2019.
“We have practically completed all the investigation and most of those responsible for the massacre of the LeBaron family, women, girls, boys, have been detained,” the president said at his morning press conference Monday.
Julian LeBaron, who met with the president in January, rebukes the his claim. “I categorically deny that those responsible for killing my cousins and their children have been arrested. There is only one [prosecuted] detainee out of 100. If your conscience makes you a coward you’d better not say anything because you only insult those of us who are already very hurt,” he posted to his Twitter account.
LeBaron said only 12 suspects are in custody yet more are responsible. Only one of the detainees has been ordered to stand trial but no one knows what charge he faces. “They have not told us anything,” he said, describing the president’s statements as “irresponsible and false.”
The last official word on the investigation came in January when federal prosecutors met with the family and announced they had identified 40 suspects. At least seven arrests have been made, including the Janos, Chihuahua, chief of police.
But LeBaron protests that some of those taken into police custody were charged for other crimes and that although arrest warrants have been issued, they have not been executed.
He also calls for a transparent investigation and noted that the case is far from being resolved.
“We would like to have known the information from the authorities and not through the transmission of a press conference,” he lamented. “It would be encouraging news if there were already more detainees. We ask for justice for our family, but [also] because the streets would be safer today.”
His frustration is echoed by other family members.
Adrian LeBaron said he has received information that people inside the federal Attorney General’s Office are obstructing the investigation and requested vigilance on the part of authorities. “If our case, which has been in the public eye, is allegedly infiltrated, what can other victims expect?”
After waiting months for justice in Mexico, on July 23 LeBaron family members filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. federal court accusing the Juárez Cartel of the massacre. The lawsuit claims that approximately 100 hitmen participated in the murders.
LeBaron family members hold dual nationality with Mexico and the United States and are descendants of a traditionalist religious group that split from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints over issues of faith, including the practice of plural marriage, which the mainstream church disavowed in 1890.
The LeBarons are farmers in northwestern Chihuahua and Sonora and have been the subject of disputes over land and water rights in the past.
But their land is also located in an area where drug cartels battle for turf. Julian LeBaron clashed with cartel leaders in 2009 when he refused to pay a million-dollar ransom for the return of his brother.