Mexico’s president appeared to cry when listening to the Mormon history of La Mora and seemed sincere in wanting to capture the gunmen who killed three mothers and six children with Utah ties, two of the victims’ relatives said Monday.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador visited La Mora, in the Mexican state of Sonora, on Sunday to discuss the Nov. 4 deaths. Before public remarks later in the day, López Obrador met in the home of Kenny Miller, whose daughter-in-law and four grandchildren were among the dead.
The meeting included an introduction by one of La Mora’s founders, Paul Langford, known as “Don Pablo,” who told the president how the community can trace its lineage to when members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fled violence in Missouri in the 1830s and then how some Mormons left Utah at the start of the 20th century to continue practicing polygamy.
The president appeared to tear up, Miller said in a text message. López Obrador “definitely looked emotionally affected, but then so was I.”
The Salt Lake City-based faith abandoned polygamy more than a century ago, and now excommunicates members found practicing it. Only a handful of La Mora’s residents still practice polygamy.
Lafe Langford Jr., whose aunt and cousins were among the dead, said López Obrador met with all three husbands of the murdered women as well as some of the victims’ parents. He also met with one of the survivors, Devin Langford, who was 13 when he helped hide his siblings and then walked miles back to La Mora to find help. López Obrador said he planned to bestow an award on the boy, Lafe Langford said.
López Obrador asked the families what he could do for them. Lafe Langford said they asked only for a monument to be erected to the victims and those who saved the survivors.
“We recognize the incredible effort the government is making on our behalf,” said Lafe Langford, who grew up in La Mora and still has a cattle ranch there but resides in Louisiana. “It’s very special, touched a lot of hearts, and I think a lot of people were moved and given some brief hopes that justice will be served.
“It was an amazing confirmation that Mexico stands with us, and they are determined to bring these criminal killers to justice.”
Lafe Langford, who was not allowed into the private meeting but heard the public remarks, said those in attendance were impressed with how López Obrador arrived. La Mora is about 1,300 miles from Mexico City — roughly the distance between Washington, D.C., and central Nebraska.
Rather than arrive by helicopter, López Obrador flew to Agua Prieta and took the same transportation La Mora residents do. His caravan drove four hours down bumpy, winding dirt roads. Lafe Langford said he was told López Obrador’s vehicle even had a flat tire along the way.
Mexico’s director of security also traveled with López Obrador. Lafe Langford said the families were allowed to watch a previously disclosed video taken by a captured suspect. It shows the moments between the shooting that killed Maria Rhonita Miller and four of her children and when the killers set her SUV ablaze.
López Obrador said he would give the families another briefing in two months and would return to dedicate the monument in four to six months. Lafe Langford said the monument is expected to be at one of the two massacre sites or there may be a monument at both locations.