Mexico Mormon Massacre: The chilling connection between NXVIM cult leader Keith Raniere and the LeBaron family revealed
The nine victims, three women and six children, were from a community of Mormons who fled the US in the 1800s.
On November 5, three women and six children of a family, who were US citizens, were killed execution-style in Mexico. The murders that were carried out near Rancho La Mora, on the borders between Sonora and Chihuahua, caught the eye of international media after President Donald Trump fired off a series of tweets claiming to lend a hand to Mexico in wiping off its drug cartels. The victims belonged to a community of Mormons who fled the United States back in the 1800s when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abandoned the practice of polygamy.
The LeBaron family, whose members were killed in the attack, had also caught the eye of NXIVM sex cult leader Keith Raniere, while he was hunting to recruit people for his "self-help" group in drug-torn Mexico. Allegedly, Raniere had claimed that he could lead the women from the Mormon community to safety and according to the New York Post, they were then made nannies in a compound run by the cult in a New York home.
Documentary filmmaker Mark Vicente told Slate that the film eventually came to be used as a recruiting video for NXVIM in an interview in May 2019. The documentary featured Julian LeBaron, who is the leader of the community in Mexico - he identified himself as a cousin to one of the mothers, Rhonita Maria LeBaron, who was killed. His brother had been killed in 2009 by the cartels when he was kidnapped and they refused to pay ransom to the kidnappers. According to Slate, Reniere used Julian's story as a crutch to further his cause of an alleged "peaceful revolution" against the cartels in Mexico, which thankfully didn't take off. However, LeBaron denied that he had agreed to it to be a recruiting tool.
Raniere was convicted of federal crimes including sex trafficking, conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit forced labor in 2019. He faces a mandatory minimum prison term of 15 years and a possible life sentence and is to be sentenced in 2020.
The community, set up in Sonora, was founded by Alma Dayer LeBaron in 1924. Alma had two wives and 8 children at the time. After his death, his son Joel took over the community's leadership and friction began. Joel founded the Church of the Firstborn of the Fulness of Times in Salt Lake City, Utah and his sibling Ervil LeBaron, was his second in command during the early years of the church's existence. They split in 1972 over leadership differences and Ervil ordered the murder of Joel LeBaron the same year. Then, he went on to try and murder their youngest brother Verlan, who took over the leadership of the church.
In 1974, Ervil was tried and convicted in Mexico for Joel's murder and his conviction was overturned over a technicality. The hunt for Verlan also resulted in the deaths of two men. He also ordered a hit on Bob Simons, a polygamist who sought to minister to Native Americans, Rulon C. Allred, leader of the Apostolic United Brethren as well as his own stepdaughter Ramona Marston. Approximately 25 people have been killed on his orders after his life sentence in 1980.
Ruth Wariner, who escaped the cult at the age of 15 along with her three siblings said in 2016 that life at Colonia LeBaron was harsh, to say the least. Her father was brutally murdered when she was 3 and her mother was married to another man in the same community. He was physically and sexually abusive. She has also described the place as far from modernity where she lived with 41 siblings, homes with no electricity and plumbing from back in the day.