Mex­ico farm town grieves for mother, sons slain in am­bush

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND | NATION & WORLD - By Peter Orsi

LA MORA, Mex­ico — With Mex­i­can soldiers stand­ing guard, a mother and two sons were car­ried to the grave in hand-hewed pine coffins Thurs­day at the first fu­neral for the vic­tims of a drug cartel am­bush that left nine Amer­i­can women and chil­dren dead.

Clad in shirt sleeves, suits or mod­est dresses, about 500 mourn­ers em­braced in grief un­der white tents erected in La Mora, a ham­let of about 300 peo­ple who con­sider them­selves Mor­mon but are not af­fil­i­ated with The Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints. Some wept, and some sang hymns.

Mem­bers of the ex­tended com­mu­nity — many of whom, like the vic­tims, are dual U.S-Mex­i­can cit­i­zens — had built the coffins them­selves, and used shov­els to dig a sin­gle, large grave for the three in the rocky soil of La Mora’s small ceme­tery. Farm­ers and teenage boys car­ried the coffins.

The coffins were placed on low ta­bles, and mourn­ers filed past to view them and pay their last re­spects to Dawna Ray Lang­ford, 43, and her sons Trevor, 11, and Ro­gan, 2.

They were to be laid to rest to­gether, just as they died to­gether Mon­day, when at­tack­ers fired a hail of bul­lets at their SUV on a dirt road lead­ing to an­other set­tle­ment, Colo­nia LeBaron, in neigh­bor­ing Chi­huahua state. Six chil­dren and three women in all were killed in the at­tack on the con­voy of three SUVs.

There was no talk of re­venge in this highly re­li­gious com­mu­nity, only a deep thirst for jus­tice.

“The eyes of the world are upon what hap­pened here, and there are saints all over this world whose hearts have been touched,” Jay Ray, Dawna’s fa­ther, said in a eu­logy.

“The plan of God is for his saints to gather out from among the wicked, be­come sep­a­rate from them, to band to­gether to es­tab­lish to­gether the laws of re­spect and one­dom,” Jay Ray said. “God will take care of the wicked.”

Dawna’s younger sis­ter Am­ber Ray, 34, eu­lo­gized her as a de­voted mother to her 13 chil­dren and home­maker who loved a good laugh and baked the best birth­day cakes around.

“There isn’t any­thing in life that a cup of cof­fee couldn’t make bet­ter,” Am­ber said Dawna was fond of say­ing.

The ham­let is about 70 miles south of the Ari­zona bor­der, where Amer­i­canstyle frame houses al­ter­nate with barns.

Pa­trols of Mex­i­can army troops passed by reg­u­larly on the ham­let’s only paved road, pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity that was lack­ing the day of the killings.

The other vic­tims are ex­pected to be buried in Colo­nia LeBaron later. But the two com­mu­ni­ties, whose res­i­dents are re­lated, drew to­gether in a show of grief.

Dozens of high-rid­ing pick­ups and SUVS, many with U.S. li­cense plates from as far away as North Dakota, ar­rived in La Mora for the fu­neral, trav­el­ing over the dirt road where the at­tack oc­curred.

Gun­men f rom t he Juarez drug cartel had ap­par­ently set up the am­bush as part of a turf war with the Si­naloa cartel, and the U.S. fam­i­lies drove into it.

Steven Lang­ford, who was mayor of La Mora from 2015 to 2018 and whose sis­ter Christina Lang­ford was one of the women killed, said he ex­pects the slay­ings to lead to an ex­o­dus from the com­mu­nity.

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