Family members of nine women and children from an offshoot Mormon community who were killed in Mexico have filed a federal lawsuit accusing the Juarez drug cartel of carrying out the attack in retribution for their public criticism and protests against the cartel.
A lawyer for the family members said they are suing to show that the Juarez cartel was responsible for the Nov. 4 slaughter and to seek damages. Mexican prosecutors have identified more than 40 suspects in the attack. Authorities have arrested and indicted nine members of the Juarez cartel, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. federal court in North Dakota.
It was not clear if representatives of the cartel would appear in court to defend against the lawsuit.
Adrian LeBaron Soto, whose daughter Maria Rhonita LeBaron was killed, said in a statement, “We will no longer be silent victims. We will leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of justice for the murder of my daughter and grandchildren.”
Michael Elsner, an attorney for the family members, said the lawsuit is one of the first civil actions against a Mexican drug cartel in the United States and that he hopes it will help halt the flow of money to the cartel.
The family accuses the Juarez cartel of coordinating the attack as part of a decades-long effort to intimidate and coerce the local population and influence the Mexican government. They call it one of the most ruthless attacks to date.
The family members, including two widowers of women killed, are seeking monetary damages for seven claims, ranging from acts of international terrorism to inflicting emotional distress. The lawsuit also reveals grisly details of how the family members were killed and how survivors as young as 9 years walked miles, some with gunshot wounds, trying to find help.
The two men whose wives were killed, Howard Miller and Tyler Johnson, work in North Dakota, according to the lawsuit. Their lawyer said various family members live in the state and work in the oil industry, but travel back and forth to Mexico.