Things That Matter

A Local Police Chief Has Been Arrested In An Alleged Connection To The Murders Of The LeBaron Family In Mexico

It has been almost two months since a group of men, allegedly cartel members, gunned down nine members of the LeBaron family in the state of Chihuahua, in northern Mexico. These nine victims of the November 4 attack were all women and children. The LeBaron family has dual citizenship and is one of the Mormon clans that migrated to northern Mexico and established a community that has connections with important political families in the United States, such as that of the Republican senator and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The massacre was condemned on both sides of the border and led the US government to reconsider the level of involvement it has in the cartel wars that have rocked Mexico since 2006. Just as 2019 comes to a close there has been some progress in the investigations. 

A municipal police chief has been arrested in connection to the LeBaron massacre.

Mexican media reported on the arrest of Fidel Alejandro Villegas, who is the police chief of the municipality of Janos in Chihuahua. The fact that a member of the police has been linked to the killing of six children (two of them merely six months old) and three women is a huge development, as it brings to light the corruption that municipal police often is tainted with then it comes to organized crime. Even though the reports do not specify the degree of Villegas’ involvement, they do point towards ties with the cartels.

As News.com.au reports: “A federal official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the arrest of Villegas, which follows the detention of other suspects earlier in the investigation. Mexican officials believe the women and children were killed after becoming caught up in a dispute between local drug cartels battling for control of the area.”

Under pressure from the Trump administration, the Mexican government agreed to let the FBI aid in the investigation. Villegas is the fourth person to be arrested for the attack after brothers Héctor Mario and Luis Manuel Hernández and another as of yet unnamed individual. 

The LeBaron massacre has had a deep impact on how the new Mexican government is perceived.

When history books are written on the presidency of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the LeBaron family massacre will stand out as the first massive challenge that the administration faced in terms of public relations management in the face of tragedy. These types of massacres happen all the time in Mexico and 2019 is bound to be the most violent year in modern history with up to 35,000 murders, but this case was put on the spotlight internationally and further damaged US-Mexico relationships.

Many fervent AMLO supporters questioned the efficacy of the government’s approach to fighting organized crime while the opposition launched tough attacks. The massacre was one of the main reasons why Donald Trump toyed with the idea of classifying drug cartels as terrorist organizations, which would redefine and broaden the involvement of the United States in Mexican territory. AMLO has called for cooperation but no intervention. US intervention in the country is a touchy subject due to the love-hate relationship that the countries have had historically. 

The LeBaron family had a very different kind of Christmas and further pressured the government to serve justice.

The LeBaron family, which migrated to Mexico fearing persecution from US authorities due to their polygamous beliefs, had a sad Christmas. As reported by CE Noticias Financieras, the patriarch Adrian is still in mourning and probably will always be: “LeBarón, with 35 children, 87 grandchildren and a great-grandson, could not hold back tears as he remembers her 30-year-old daughter Rhonita Miller, whose charred body was found after the massacre in a burned-out vehicle on a terraced road near her home. ‘We thank us for giving us the strength to resist those things that have hurt in our souls,’ said the 58-year-old man, along with Shalom, one of his three wives and Rhonita’s mother”. Mexican-American Mormons are mounting pressure and the arrest of Fidel Alejandro Villegas and three other individuals seems to be a response to this.

As reported by Mail Online, the LeBaron patriarch has been lobbying in Mexico City and Washington for further security measures and binational cooperation. He has also criticized the political structures that, according to his diagnosis, basically put police forces under the control of the cartels: “The Mexican municipal police are not autonomous in this area. They are under the control of the mayors, who are financed by the cartels. The old ways here have to change. We have 20 neighboring municipalities and no district attorney. We have no independent police, and that has to change.”

The Bodies Of A California Couple Were Found On Their Tijuana Property And Now Police Have Uncovered Two More

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The Bodies Of A California Couple Were Found On Their Tijuana Property And Now Police Have Uncovered Two More

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Last week a California couple was reported missing by their family in Garden Grove – a suburb of Los Angeles. The couple had traveled to Tijuana (where they were originally from) to collect the rent from the tenant who was living on their property. Unfortunately, they never returned home.

With the ever increasing violence in Tijuana, their family feared the worse and a few days later was confirmed when police located their bodies. However, the story continues to develop as a total of three more bodies have been found on their property.

Investigators say that two more bodies (for a total of 5) have been discovered on a Tijuana property where a California couple disappeared.

Credit: Fiscalía General / Baja California

Jesus Ruben Lopez Guillen, 70, and his wife Maria Teresa Lopez, 65, of Garden Grove, a couple with dual U.S.-Mexico citizenship, vanished on January 10 after they crossed the border to collect more than $6,700 in rent from tenants of two houses they owned in Tijuana. Their bodies turned up in one of the houses, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, citing Mexican investigators.

The attorney general’s office for the state of Baja California, just south of San Diego, said late Saturday the second set of bodies – one male and the other female – are in a state of advanced decomposition. All four bodies were covered in lime when they were found by investigators.

The story started when the couple traveled to Tijuana to collect rent on properties they owned – and then never returned to California.

Credit: Garden Grove Police Department

When the couple failed to return home the next day, their daughter, Norma Lopez, reported the couple missing.

Garden Grove police opened a missing person case after the Guilléns were reported missing. Garden Grove police Lt. Carl Whitney said their daughter had been tracking her parents though the Find My iPhone app, which last showed the couple at their property in the Colonia Obrero neighborhood south of downtown Tijuana, about four miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. Then the phone went dead, and she could not track them anymore, Whitney said.

Police have since arrested their son-in-law in connection with the murders.

The man accused of killing the couple, their son-in-law, was ordered by a judge to remain in police custody while the state’s prosector’s office continues to gather evidence. According to authorities, they likely have enough evidence to charge him the murders of each of the victims found on the two properties.

Authorities suspect the man killed his in-laws in a dispute over money. They say he confessed to burying them on one of their properties, where he lived.

The judge during the hearing Sunday ruled Santiago will remain in jail under “forced disappearance” charges.

A “forced disappearance” charge is not as serious as a homicide charge, but it is still a felony in Mexico. It means the man is accused of trying to make the couple disappear. The charge can be used in cases of living or deceased victims. The man also was accused of something similar to obstruction of justice, for allegedly misleading investigators and refusing to assist in the investigation.

Prosecutors said investigators have obtained cell phone records, text messages and video camera footage of the defendant and of the victims’ truck — evidence prosecutors said contradicted his statements to police.

Mexican Security Forces Just Killed La Catrina – One Of Mexico’s Most Famous Cartel Leaders And Not Everyone Approves

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Mexican Security Forces Just Killed La Catrina – One Of Mexico’s Most Famous Cartel Leaders And Not Everyone Approves

@MarinaNacionalMX / Twitter

The cartel wars in Mexico have produced their fair share of larger-than-life characters and stories of success and terrible failure that have to be read to be believed. Such is the case of La Catrina, a hitwoman for the vicious Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), which after the demise of Los Zetas and considered the somewhat diminished capacities of the Sinaloa Cartel has surged as the most powerful and violent drug trafficking organization in the world. As Post Media News reminds us, the CJNG is perhaps one of the most complex global players in trafficking, and “responsible for trafficking many tons of cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl-laced heroin into the United States, as well as for violence and significant loss of life in Mexico. The cartel is said to operate in 75 per cent of Mexican states, and to have operations in Europe, Asia and Australia as well as across the Americas”. Its leader Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes “El Mencho” is one of the most wanted criminals in the world. 

Among its ranks, the CJNG has had some female dealers and killers. Among them, the most legendary and powerful was a young woman of vicious looks, a killing fashionista by the moniker of La Catrina. She was only 21-years-old, but was known for her savage methods.  Her real name:  María Guadalupe López Esquivel. As CE Noticias Financieras reminds us, she was born and raised in one of the most violent regions of the country: “Although she was born in Buenavista, María Guadalupe was taken to live in Tepalcatepec, where she attended primary school, counted by settlers from that municipality of Tierra Caliente”. 

La Catrina was a sicaria and led a group of assassins who were accused of ambushing a police convoy.

La Catrina committed the ultimate crime in the world of the Mexican cartel wars: she and her sicarios ambushed a police convoy and ended the lives of 13 officers in the much disputed state of Michoacan. She then became a prime target for the army and the newly formed Guardia Nacional. La Catrina was infamous for her bloody methods and cruelness. 

She got into the cartel when she fell in love with one of its most powerful members.

As often happens, she was led into a life of crime out of love, as she started dating one of the cartel strongmen. As news.com.au reports: “It is believed that La Catrina joined the CJNG in 2017, having fallen in love with another leader, Miguel “El M2” Fernandez. She rose rapidly through the ranks under El M2, living a glamorous lifestyle within the cartel. When she died she was in charge of paying fellow criminals and lead assassinations, extortion and kidnappings”. She often flaunted her lavish lifestyle on social media, posing in designer clothes and holding weapons made out of pure gold. 

An online bodycam video shows the moment when security forces found her gasping for air as a river of blood emanated from her neck.

The video is a gruesome reminder of the consequences that individuals who decide to dedicate their lives to crime might ultimately face. As the camera approaches we can see a young woman dressed in sweatpants and what seems to be a hoodie sitting on the floor. She is gasping for air and the sound is chilling, a premonition of certain death. The soldier tells her “hang on, mija, we are waiting for a helicopter to take you.”

But as luck would have it, it was way to late and the sad legend of La Catrina was born. It was a moment that will perhaps be turned into a movie scene someday, as Post Media News reports: “An amateur tourniquet draped around her neck, she can be seen sitting slumped in the dust beside a wall, blood dripping from her hand and neck as she gasps for breath. Glancing up at the officer approaching her, she seems resigned to her fate.”

She died while arrested, as a helicopter was trying to take her to hospital.

The mission in which La Catrina was killed and six other cartel members were captured involved state trooperes, state police and the National Guard. It all happened in a village called La Bocanada in Tepalcatepec, Michoacán, a territory known for the cruel disputes among cartels. They were found in a safe house after a tip led the authorities to capture one of the CJNG’s biggest fish.

La Catrina’s death is a big step, at least in terms of media reach, for the AMLO government, which has failed to reign in the cartels and has so far been unsuccessful in curbing violence and killings in the country. 2019 was the bloodiest year to date in modern Mexican history and the government seems to be at the mercy of the cartels.