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Mormons mourn their massacred kin in Mexico: 'Our lives will never be the same'

Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

While police and journalists swarmed this bucolic farming community, a similar response wasn't seen when 27 people were burned to death in a strip club in Veracruz in August, or when 14 police officers were ambushed and killed in the span of less than an hour in Michoacan in October.

And as families here began burying their dead Thursday, there was an eerie sense that the ground had shifted and life for the Americans had changed. The services were not just for the families but for a Mexico in which white Americans, and especially women and children, were off limits.

"Our lives will never be the same," Miller said. "This is the first time I've ever thought that I might not spend the rest of my life in Mexico."

The funerals drew hundreds of friends and relatives from across the United States and Mexico. Those who traveled from the U.S. were met at the border by Mexican soldiers, who escorted them to La Mora.

Willy Jessop, who came from Utah, said some people were afraid to make the trip.

"Everyone had to balance fear and love," he said. "But I think love won out."

Members of the Mormon community in Chihuahua state learned several years ago just how ruthless organized crime had become when a teenager was kidnapped and held for ransom and then the young man's brother was murdered.

In response, members of the community formed their own vigilante police force and spoke openly about smuggling high-powered weapons in from the United States.

"That showed the mafia there that it's not worth it to mess with us and that it does more harm than good," Jessop said.

On Thursday, he attended the memorial service for Dawna Ray Langford, 43, and her sons Trevor, 11, and Rogan, 2.


Five other Langford children were wounded in the attack. One of them was shot in the jaw. Another was shot in the stomach.

The memorial service was held on a wide green lawn behind a handsome stucco home. The 400 guests sang together and prayed together, and then listened to Dawna Langford's children as they told stories about their mom.

Langford's husband, David, sat in the front row with his second wife, Margaret. Though not all members of the community here practice polygamy, the Langfords did.

Bryce Langford, Dawna's eldest son, recalled his mother's love of coffee and her love of telling stories that sometimes stretched beyond the truth.

"She was my best friend, the perfect coffee partner and the perfect mother," he said between tears. He recalled first hearing about the shooting on Monday, and driving frantically from North Dakota, where, like many other men in this community, he works part time in the oil business.

"Every mile that we drove down got more and more painful because the reality was sinking in," he said.

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