The loud chatter in the background most likely reminded Adrián LeBaron of his earlier days as a parent while raising his 12 children with his wife, Shalom LeBaron, at his home in Mexico.
His grandchildren, Tristan Miller, 9, Amaryllis Miller, 6, and Zack Miller, 4, were simply running around at the house. Laughing. Simply doing what young kids do.
But what he could never have imagined was that he’d be raising three of his 99 grandchildren alone while hammering out the final details of a memorial service for his daughter and four of her children.
Rhonita Miller, 30, one of his six daughters, and her four children – eight-month-old twins Tiana and Titus, Howard Jr., 12, and Krystal, 10 – were among nine people from the Mormon family brutally assassinated by a Mexican cartel La Linea who opened fire on their convoy of three vehicles exactly a year ago in Bavispe, Mexico.
All of the victims were U.S.-Mexico dual citizens.
Rhonita MIller’s son, Tristan, has spent the past year questioning why his mother and four of his siblings were brutally executed the morning they took off on the nine-hour drive to Phoenix, Arizona, to pick up his father, Howard Miller, from the airport. The couple were set to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
‘The toughest thing for me and Shalom is they are still jumping in bed at night and the oldest one he has nightmares and it’s bad,’ LeBaron told DailyMail.com.
‘He always crawls into the bed, especially with the grandma. So it hasn’t been easy there. They miss their mother.’
Rhonita Miller (back, left) is one of the three mothers and six children who were ambushed and murdered November 4, 2019, in Bavispe, Mexico, by members of La Línea, the enforcement unit of the Juárez Cartel. Pictured with Miller are eight-month old twins Titus (held by Rhonita) and Tiana Miller (held by her husband Howard); Howard Jr. and Krystal (standing in front of Rhonita), all whom died in the attack. Pictured in the front from left to right are Zack, Amaryllis Miller, and Miller, who were not present the day of the attack
Adrián LeBaron hugs his wife Shalom LeBaron during a protest against violence in Mexico City on January 26. Adrián LeBaron spoke to DailyMail.com on the phone this week and said his family was going to hold a memorial for the nine victims of the November 4, 2019 cartel attack in Bavispe, Mexico. His daughter and four grandchildren were among nine members of the mormon community who were ambushed and gunned down by cartel fighters
Adrián LeBaron (right) poses with one of his six daughters, Rhonita Miller, and his wife Shalom LeBaron. LeBaron told DailyMail.com that his purpose will be to make sure justice is served for Miller, her four grandchildren, and the two other mothers and two children who were killed during a cartel attack on November 4, 2019
LeBaron recalls driving with his wife to a local gas station after receiving the devastating news at 10:30am that Rhonita Miller’s Chevrolet Suburban had been torched on a desolate road in Bavispe, a city in the state of Sonora.
His heartbeat raced as he managed to tried to get more information on the attack, allegedly launched by La Línea, an armed wing of the Juárez Cartel.
The ambush occurred not too far from La Mora, around 70 miles south of Arizona, where members of the offshoot Mormon sect had lived since the last 1800s, after polygamy was outlawed in the United States.
The gunmen also assassinated Christina Marie Langford Johnson while her seven-month-old daughter Faith Langford survived. Dawna Ray Langford was driving her SUV with her nine children and was shot and killed in the ambush. Her two sons, Trevor, 11, and Rogan, 3, were assassinated, while the other seven children escaped, including five who were wounded.
The attack on LeBaron’s daughter and grandchildren took place 10 miles from the site of the first murders because Miller’s car had encountered mechanical problems and she had returned to La Mora for a repair.
LeBaron said it took him nearly six hours to arrive at the scene of the tragedy because he awaited for help from the Mexican army and local authorities after alerting them of the fatal event.
Pictured: members of the LeBaron family looking at the charred remains of their family Rhonita Miller’s SUV after it was torched by members of La Línea, a gang tied to the Juárez Cartel
Adrián LeBaron with his Krystal Miller, who died in the cartel attack, and Amaryllis, who is one of the three children who were not present
Jesús Parras was arrested in June and is only one of 12 suspects charged in connection to the massacre
‘I asked the army, the state police and the federal police and the municipal police and nobody wanted to go there. We decided to go there and everybody started following us,’ said LeBaron, who was accompanied by David Langford,
‘We heard that they [La Linea] were planning a bigger attack, but everything was frustrated because the LeBaron’s started going up to the mountain,’ he added.
LeBaron’s theory is that the Juárez Cartel instructed La Línea to carry out the deadly assault as a tactic to block off the Sinaloa Cartel’s drug trafficking route to the United States.
‘What happened there should have not have happened,’ LeBaron said. ‘How could the cartel in Sonora hurt the Sinaloa Cartel? By killing people on that road and making the government deploy a massive amount of National Guard troops. Now the Sinaloa Cartel lost that route. If that was the objective, then it did work.’
Adrián LeBaron with Krystal Miller and Amaryllis Millers (resting over his shoulders)
Pictured: The three mothers and six young children who were savagely murdered by Mexican drug cartel gunman on November 4, 2019
LeBaron, who has been a staunch critic of how the investigation has been handled by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his administration, expects to have an update in December during a ceremony in which the leftist leader will unveil a monument for the victims.
Authorities have arrested 12 suspects linked to the attack, but only one, Jesús Parras, has been charged in connection to the massacre. LeBaron said he has been assured by the Mexican government that there are other suspects at-large who are on the verge of being arrested.
‘In Mexico if you don’t do a follow up on an investigation it dies,’ he said. ‘And that is one of the biggest reasons that most of the investigations die in Mexico. So we learned that and we won’t let it fall [apart].’
As the children played at his house, LeBaron thought about one of the last conversations he had with Rhonita Miller. LeBaron said often took on the role of the local church’s pastor and enjoyed their deep spiritual conversations.
Not having Miller around any more has left a dark cloud over the family when they get together to celebrate their first Thanksgiving, Christmas and numerous other events.
In a sense, she was the life of the party, every nephews and nieces favorite aunt – an honor she humbly accepted.
‘She was always present as much as she could. With her, everything came together in the family. We miss her a lot because she was that type of ingredient that would always bring us together time after time,’ LeBaron said.
Just like that one time she drove 30 hours from the family’s home in North Dakota to for a big event in Mexico which she simply was not going to miss.
‘To her that was not big of a deal to drive,’ he said.
While he admits his life has flipped ‘180 degrees,’ LeBaron’s end goal is to find justice for his daughter, grandchildren and four other victims whose lives were taken away.
‘All of my family has been forced to face this news because we’re not about to just let it go,’ he said. ‘I’ve been having to face it constantly and it’s my purpose not to let it be forgotten. My life [revolves] around that.’