Funerals for three of the nine Mormon family members slaughtered in Monday’s cartel massacre began Thursday under the watchful eye of heavily armed Mexican security forces.
Dawna Ray Langford, 43, and her sons Trevor, 11, and Rogan, 2, were laid to rest in humble pine coffins inside a single grave as hundreds of mourners gathered under white tents.
“We’re just trying to gather and be there and offer our love and support,” relative Joe Darger, 50, told the Daily News in a phone interview after driving south from his Utah residence to reach his extended family’s collection of ranches in La Mora, a hamlet about a 100 miles over the border in Sonora, Mexico.
He said the funerals were happening quickly because local morticians were overwhelmed by the case, unable to offer proper embalming.
Two of Darger’s kids married into the Langford family based out of La Mora, he said, and the horrific rural road ambush that claimed the lives of three moms and six children Monday — including 8-month-old twins — was hard to accept.
“It’s just unimaginable,” he told The News. “My daughter Laura has a baby the same age as the twins. I can’t even look at my grandson and not be torn up about it.”
Dawna Ray and her sons died when gunmen unleashed a hail of bullets on their SUV as they traveled a dirt road leading to another settlement known as Colonia LeBaron in neighboring Chihuahua.
Both La Mora and Colonia LeBaron consider themselves Mormon but are not officially affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Fellow mom Rhonita Maria Miller, 30, also died in the terrifying ambush along with her 12-year-old son Howard Jr., 10-year-old daughter Krystal and 8-month-old twins Titus and Tiana.
The third mom senselessly slain, Christina Marie Langford Johnson, was married to a member of the LeBaron family and due to be buried at Colonia LeBaron, Darger said.
The 31-year-old mom likely saved her 7-month-old baby daughter by hiding the infant’s car seat on the floor of her vehicle amid the violence, relatives said.
One caravan of relatives who made the trek south for Thursdays funeral gathered at a Walmart in Douglas, Arizona, Wednesday afternoon before crossing the border and meeting up with an escort of vehicles from the federal police and Mexican military, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
At least one of the vehicles was a camouflaged truck carrying officers with body armor and high-powered rifles, according to a photo published by The Tribune.
The heavily armed escort protected the front and back of the family convoy and blocked off intersections to allow the Americans to stay in a pack, the newspaper said.
The Mexican government promised the relatives safe passage to and from the funerals amid swirling questions about why the women and children were targeted and what can be done to curb cartel violence in the area.
Multiple family members have spoken up on social media, faulting anyone enriching the drug lords and calling out U.S. officials for failing to better regulate assault weapons.
One relative posted a heartbreaking photo Thursday showing a blood-spattered baby bottle from the scene of the murders.
“The next time you think about inhaling cocaine or any derivative of drugs, you can think of this photo that is a consequence of your ‘fun,'” read the accompanying message shared by Mary Johnson LeBaron on Facebook.
“Want to help? Focus on lowering Drug Consumption in U.S. Want to help some more? Stop the ATF and Gun Law loopholes from systematically injecting high powered assault weapons to Mexico… Please help @realDonaldTrump,” Alex LeBaron González, who lives in Chihuaua, wrote on Twitter earlier this week.
A GoFundMe fundraiser for the families posted new images Thursday of some of the kids who survived the terrifying attack by running and hiding in nearby bushes.
The new posts included a video of 8-month-old Brixton Oliver Langford sitting up in the hospital, raising his arm and generally appearing alert and responsive as he recovers from a bullet wound to his chest.
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