On the morning of November 4, 2019, an unassuming caravan of women and children was ambushed by masked gunmen on a desolate stretch of road in northern Mexico controlled by the Sinaloa drug cartel. The attackers killed nine people and gravely injured five more. The victims were members of the LeBarón and La Mora communities—fundamentalist Mormons whose forebears broke from the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) Church and settled in Mexico when the church outlawed polygamy in the late nineteenth century.
In THE COLONY: Faith and Blood in a Promised Land (Liveright; June 28, 2022) best-selling investigative journalist Sally Denton takes on the still-ongoing case, in a masterful work of history and a chilling, compulsive true crime narrative that begins as the story of a massacre, and unfurls into the strange, violent history of the LeBaron clan in a land much stranger than fiction.
I would love to get you a copy of The Colony and schedule an interview with Sally Denton. Ms. Denton is available starting Tuesday, June 28, 2022. If there is interest, please respond with the best mailing address for a hard copy of the book and a date/time for the interview.
Drawing on firsthand interviews with anonymous women from the LeBarón community and historical research, Denton unfolds an epic, disturbing tale that spans from the first polygamist emigrations to Mexico through the LeBaróns’ internal blood feud in the 1970s—started by Ervil LeBaron, known as the “Mormon Manson”—and up to the family’s recent alliance with the NXIVM sex cult, whose now-imprisoned leader, Keith Raniere, may have based his practices on the society he witnessed in Colonia LeBarón.
Some revelations in the book include:
- The historic violence of the clan
- The longstanding relationship between Colonia LeBarón and NXIVM—this has not been widely reported, having been mentioned only on an obscure NXIVM blog, and once by the Albany Times Union during Keith Raniere’s criminal trial
- The complex relationship between the hugely successful LeBarón nut farmers and their neighbors, including the Mexican drug cartels
- Many first-hand accounts never reported, based on inside sources, about how the massacre happened and the events leading up to it
- How the LeBaróns are raising rightwing militias amid anti-government claims of sovereignty that parallels, and is interrelated with, such movements in the US (e.g. Ammon Bundy, whose followers believe he is “the One Mighty and Strong” is the leader of an anti-government armed militia in the US and is running for governor of Idaho)
- The Colony is a cautionary tale about the impending water wars in the US Southwest, with a drying up water supply and armed violence
- How entwined the LeBarón family became with the Trump administration which they lobbied to designate the cartels as terrorists. This dovetails with recent revelations about the lengths the Trump administration was willing to go to pursue a military strike against Mexico, using the LeBarón massacre as pretext
- The water conflict in Baja California between the LeBaróns and their neighbors has not been reported in the US, and only received minor attention in Mexico
- How the violent reign of Ervil LeBarón in the 1970s is tied to the water conflict in Baja California
- A firsthand look inside Colonia LeBarón from the women’s viewpoint