Ervil, Joel, Verlan, Alma, Floren LeBaron
  • Ervil, Joel, Verlan, Alma, Floren LeBaron
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It was January 1975, and San Diego was making big news in the New York Times, as violence from a notorious polygamous cult spilled into the county from Baja California.

"A search centered on San Diego this week for four suspects reported to have fled across the border from Mexico following a firebomb and shotgun attack on a polygamous religious colony operated by excommunicated Mormons from Utah," the paper reported.

"Mexican authorities said that since the colony's establishment 11 years ago 90 miles south of Ensenada, five persons had been killed, including the sect's founder and president, Joel LeBaron, 47 years old, who was beaten and fatally shot on August 20, 1972."

Six months after the Times story, Dean Vest was gunned down in a National City kitchen on June 16, 1975. As in the case of Joel LeBaron's killing, suspicion focused on Joel's brother Ervil.

"The 6-foot-8, 260-pound Vest was once a bodyguard of Ervil LeBaron. But at the time of his death, Vest was thinking of leaving the group and was considered a traitor by LeBaron," recounts a June 1988 Deseret News LaBaron family history.

"He was shot three times in the head by Vonda White at her home near San Diego, supposedly on orders from Ervil. One shot to the head after Vest was already dead may have been a ritualistic coup de grace for a 'blood atonement,' a murder to pay for someone's sins. Ervil supposedly told White again that she 'was an elected' lady after she committed the murder."

White, Ervil's tenth wife, was arrested in Mexico on June 1,1979, extradited to San Diego, and convicted in 1980 of Vest's killing. She got life in prison. In 2006, after serving 28 years, White’s 19th bid for parole was rejected by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who reversed a parole board grant of release, saying "her release from prison would post an unreasonable public-safety risk."

But the story did not end there.

"Many of you know Vonda White, a 69-year-old woman who has been a leader at the California Institution for Women during her nearly 30 years of incarceration," said a November 21, 2008 post on the website, Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women.

"She was released this week on Tuesday, November 18, due to a successful habeas writ challenging the Governor's reversal of her 2006 release on parole."

In 1980, Ervil was convicted in Utah of conspiring to kill Verlan LeBaron, another brother and leader of another polygomy sect, and directing the 1977 murder of Rulon Allred, a Salt Lake Valley sect leader. Ervil had once been charged in Mexico with his brother Joel's death, as well.

Almost a year after that, Ervil was found dead in his Utah prison cell in August 1981, alongside a note saying, "I've gone to meet my maker."

By then he had 13 wives.

Now the November 4, 2019 killings in the state of Sonora, Mexico of nine U.S.-Mexican family members, including six children, who were part of a group of fundamentalist Mormons, has drawn the Twitter ire of president Donald Trump and brought renewed attention to the LeBaron family history.

The nature of the links between Ervil, the surviving LeBaron clan and those who died Monday in Mexico are not yet clear. A November 5 report by the Washington Post says that although several of the victims of Monday's attack bore the LeBaron name, Mormon fundamentalism scholar Cristina Rosetti told the paper that they were "not part of the LeBaron order."

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ceehound619 Nov. 5, 2019 @ 4:23 p.m.

The United States should cut all ties with Mexico including any financial aid until they bring that lawless cesspool under control.


[email protected] Nov. 6, 2019 @ 1:57 p.m.

You obviously have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Mexico is a beautiful country full of sweet generous people. You sound like a t-rump idiot.


ceehound619 Nov. 8, 2019 @ 6:54 a.m.

Yea beautiful country where people get murdered and heads stuck on spears for all to see....absolutely corrupt snd the drug gangs control the land.....must have missed the El Chapo son thing in the news have your head stuck in the sand.....sorry you lost the election Nancy lol


AlexClarke Nov. 6, 2019 @ 6:42 a.m.

Just more crazy religious nuts. Sad for the innocent children but this is the price paid when adults adhere to the dictums of cult religions.


Cassander Nov. 6, 2019 @ 12:22 p.m.

Gosh, Trump intentionally mischaracterize an internal blood feud killing by right-wing kooks to further his demonizing of Mexicans and other foreigners? Hope the national press follows up on this story and exposes what really happened.


[email protected] Nov. 6, 2019 @ 2:02 p.m.

t-rump continues to exhibit his ignorance by calling these people great Americans. They don't even live in this country and most real Americans abhor polygamy as child sexual abuse. That this stupid uneducated fool sits in our White House is a national disgrace.


monaghan Nov. 6, 2019 @ 5:41 p.m.

There is a whole subset of weird Mormon stories that occasionally come to light and make me wonder about this busy-bee straight-arrow American-as-apple-pie religion. It's not all Senator Mitt and Starchy Ann out there, as we learned this week. Polygamous refugee caravans heading INTO Mexico? Forgetaboutrump. This is strange enough.


Visduh Nov. 7, 2019 @ 8:29 a.m.

It isn't clear that this was an ambush by "drug cartels" at all. It might have been, but why did they take out women and children? So, it could have been internecine warfare between and among these breakaway Mormon groups. But there is little protection for ordinary folks in large swathes of Mexico, and that area is one of them. The cops (of all varieties) are no where to be found, the army isn't present, and the new national guard was absent. That sort of out-of-control situation has a name: failed state. Yet Mexico is back, pushing itself as a "really neat" tourist destination. Hey, travel there at your peril.


dwbat Nov. 7, 2019 @ 9:33 p.m.

Never crossed the border, and never will.


monaghan Nov. 7, 2019 @ 11:15 p.m.

OMG. In contrast to these dark views of our neighbor to the South, I can only say I know Kiwanians who mentor youth groups from the US of A who regularly go into the hills east of TJ to build Habitat for Humanity houses for very poor people. I know Americans who go down to TJ for regular visits to the dentist. I know surfers who drive their families in caravans to Baja Sur to catch long waves. I have relatives who spend Easter in a tiny town on the Sea of Cortez, shelling and swimming with those little near-extinct porpoises. I know American retirees who live happily in Oaxaca and Guadalajara and San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City. Mexico is a fabulous place and we are lucky to live nearby. Just stay out of Culiacan.


ceehound619 Nov. 8, 2019 @ 6:56 a.m.

Yea fabulous except the drug gangs rule the must have missed the Incident with El Chapos son in the news recently.


Visduh Nov. 8, 2019 @ 7:58 a.m.

U S citizens do travel to Mexico in large numbers for many reasons. Any time you cross into TJ, you are crossing into one of the most violent (if not THE most violent) cities in the world. Believe me, that's saying something that isn't good. TJ was, for years, a popular tourist destination despite its raunchy reputation. The truth was that it appealed to people who found its dark side an attraction rather than a turn-off. In those times you might have risked your wallet or a night or two in the infamous jail, but not your life. When something goes awry there for a visitor, the best thing to do usually is flee. Calling the cops there is just inviting more bad guys into the already-bad situation. The reasons to avoid Mexico today outweigh the positives; many of those who live there and visit there have been lucky--so far. When their luck runs out, they'll change their tunes.


Socks3742 Nov. 8, 2019 @ 8:36 a.m.

US citizens do travel to Mexico in large numbers, but I don't think it's because of it's "dark side." Traveling to Mexico is one of the cheapest destinations, and not everyone can afford to travel to Europe, or take a cruise around the world. People shop in TJ because you can buy things dirt cheap. Anyone who goes there these days, whether you live in San Diego or anywhere in the US isn't thinking clearly. It's way too dangerous. I used to shop in TJ (occasionally), I've taken a one day cruise and seven day Mexican Riviera cruise (when I was younger). You couldn't pay me any amount of money to set foot in Mexico these days. It's NOT worth it. We travel to nicer places because we can afford to.


monaghan Nov. 8, 2019 @ 2:06 p.m.

Mexican "bargains" may be reason for first-timers or students with loans or retirees trying to stretch their retirement dollars to cross the border. But people who return to Mexico repeatedly go because it is dramatically different from the USA in a million ways -- not least because of Mexico's layers of indiigenous languages, ruins, arts, handcrafts, music, cuisine, alcohol and pre-Columbian pre-Christian cultures. Plus Mexico has gorgeous mountains, jungles and seashores and the Mexican people are uniquely memorably social and warm, even to gringos.


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