Judge orders Mexican cartel to pay billions of dollars for 2019 killings of nine American women and children
A Mexican drug cartel accused in the gruesome killings of nine women and children from an offshoot Mormon community must pay $1.5 billion to the families, a federal judge from North Dakota ruled.
The family members of the victims filed a lawsuit accusing the Juarez cartel of carrying out the November 2019 attack in Mexico as retribution for their public criticism and protests against the cartel. Cartel members allegedly fired hundreds of rounds of ammunition into vehicles and then set them on fire. Mexican authorities said in 2020 that the mastermind of the attack was one of 17 people arrested.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Clare Hochhalter's award will be automatically tripled under federal Anti-Terrorism Act, increasing the amount to $4.6 billion. The government can freeze assets of terrorist organizations, but it's unclear if the U.S. Treasury Department holds any cartel assets.
The Bismarck Tribune reported that the cartel did not respond to a published summons or have representation at a trial in North Dakota in March.
The surviving family members include two widowers of women killed who were working in North Dakota at the time the suit was filed. Their lawyer said various family members were living in the state and working in the oil industry while traveling back and forth to Mexico.
Family members said the bodies of 30-year-old Maria Rhonita Miller, her 8-month-old twins Titus and Tiana, 12-year-old son Howard Jr. and 10-year-old Krystal were found inside a burned-out SUV. The vehicle had broken down with a flat tire before it was riddled with bullets, causing the car to explode.
"We went into a United States courtroom in North Dakota seeking some acknowledgement of and measure of justice for the trauma inflicted on our family and we received it," said David Langford, the husband of one of the victims.
After his mother and two brothers were shot to death, 13-year-old Devin Langford was able to hide six other siblings in nearby bushes, covering them with branches. He then walked 14 miles for help. His 9-year-old sister, McKenzie, was grazed in the arm. She walked for four hours in the dark before finally finding rescuers.
The families are members of the La Mora settlement, a decades-old community in Sonora state founded as an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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