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They died in a hail of bullets…

They died in a hail of bullets

They died in a hail of bullets…

Even now, four years later, it’s painful to think about Rhonita Miller, then 30, and her infant twins, being gunned down in cold blood by cartel killers near her home in Sonora, a state in Mexico that borders the U.S.

Rhonita was in many ways a typical American mom. She drove a Chevy Suburban. She had a Pinterest page. Her husband sometimes worked in the North Dakota oil fields.

But Rhonita had been born into the breakaway Mormon colony of Colonia LeBaron, where the colonists embraced polygamy. Her mother was one of three wives taken by her father.

In August 2006, one month shy of her 17th birthday, Rhonita married Howard Miller, who hailed from a Mormon family that didn’t practice polygamy.

In 2019, Howard and Rhonita relocated to a breakaway colony called La Mora, across the Sierra Madre from Colonia LeBaron. Rhonita loved the location: a fertile river valley where colonists tended to vast orchards of pecan trees.

After the twins Tiana and Titus were born, Rhonita often journeyed over the Sierra Madre to visit family in Colonia LeBaron. But the dirt roads of Sonora were drug-running corridors, controlled by the cartel.

Rhonita figured she was safe anyway. “She thought her innocence would protect her,” said Adriana Jones, one of Rhonita’s sisters, when I interviewed her in 2019. “Who’s going to mess with a woman and her kids? Nobody is that evil.”

Rhonita was at the wheel of a Suburban when she drove away from La Mora on November 4, 2019. In back, her eight-month-old twins were belted into their car seats.

Within minutes of leaving home they encountered unimaginable terror. A hail of bullets struck the Suburban, piercing the doors and shattering the windows. Soon the vehicle was engulfed in flames.

Despite extensive law enforcement investigation on both sides of the border, the horrifying case is far from over, as evidenced by the recent arrest of an accused cartel assassin who was hiding out in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Investigating the case was one of the saddest projects I’ve ever undertaken. Here’s my article from 2018, which ran in the Las Vegas Review-Journal: https://www.reviewjournal.com/news/nation-and-world/how-an-american-mom-died-at-the-hands-of-a-mexican-cartel-1918494/

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