The Mormon Manson (Drug Cartels vs. Mormons Part 2/7)

Uploaded by vice on Sep 18, 2012


MITT ROMNEY: My dad had been born in Mexico and his family
had to leave during the Mexican Revolution.
He had big dreams.
We were Mormons and growing up in Michigan, that might have
seemed unusual or out of place, but I really don't
remember it that way.
My friends cared more about what sports teams we followed
than what church we went to.

SHANE SMITH: So we're on our way down here to Colonial
Juarez, which is in Northern Mexico in Chihuahua state.
A lot of people may know that Romney and his family are
actually from here.
His father was actually born here in a Mormon colony.
But maybe what they don't know is that these Mormon colonies
are still here.
And they're actually fighting the narco cartels, the drug
cartels, that run this whole region.
They're standing up and they're fighting the
kidnapping and the violence and the crime.
So the question is, what are the Mormons doing down in
Mexico in the first place?
Mormons originally came down to Mexico in the late 1800s
after the American government forced the Mormon church to
ban polygamy.
The problem with this is that Joseph Smith, the prophet of
the religion, held that polygamy was actually a divine
He believed that you could only reach the highest level
of the celestial kingdom, or heaven, if you are actually a
partner in a plural marriage.
So basically, the more wives you had, the better
heaven would be.
And rather than give up their place in heaven, many moved
down to Mexico to continue to practice polygamy, and thereby
assure their place in the afterlife.
Here in the seclusion of the Mexican desert, they could
practice all the standard Mormon rituals, like baptizing
the dead or wearing magic underwear, but also the more
controversial plural marriage.
Or, as we were soon to find out, the outright insane
practice of blood atonement.
So after about five hours of some very nervous driving and
a couple of very thorough stops at military checkpoints,
not to mention two stops at drive-through liquor stores to
calm our very jangly nerves, we finally arrived at the
Mormon promised land.

We left Juarez, which is very dirty and
poor and very druggie.
And then all of a sudden you come over this hill, and
there's orchards and golf courses.
The streets are laid out nice, they've got nice schools, kids
are playing baseball, and there's angels.
And it's kind of like ah, we've come to God's country.
Because it's beautiful here and they obviously have money.
So this is why they're being targeted by the narcos, and
this is why they have to fight back.
So now we're going to go meet some Mormons who are actually
fighting the narco cartel.

This is Brent LeBaron's farm.
They are sort of famously secretive about their weapons,
their fighting, because they don't want to be targeted
anymore by the cartels.
We're going to go meet him and see if he'll show us around.

BRENT LEBARON: Yeah, how's it going?
SHANE SMITH: Shane Smith.
Nice to meet you.
SHANE SMITH: Nice to meet you, how you doing?
BRENT LEBARON: I'm very, very well.
SHANE SMITH: This is your farm?
BRENT LEBARON: This is my farm.
We farm chili and a little bit of wheat-- all depends on the
time of the season.
SHANE SMITH: We've heard that the LeBaron family, the
LeBaron colony, has sort of been standing up to some of
the narco cartels.
BRENT LEBARON: Yeah, we've had a few run-ins with them.
I don't like to say too much about them.
But I'd love to show you around.
Let's go.
SHANE SMITH: Let's do it.
Now, I didn't know what to expect when I first met Brent.
And when I did, he seemed to me more
American than most Americans.
In fact, I wouldn't have been surprised if he told me he
played linebacker for Alabama.
But when he started to give me the tour around the cemetery,
I realized that his story was anything but normal.
BRENT LEBARON: This is a graveyard where my grandfather
and great grandfather are buried.
The original story is they come down for the cause of
plural marriage to continue it--
Mexico allowed it.
SHANE SMITH: So they wanted to continue polygamy?
My great grandfather, being a fundamentalist, he broke away
from the Mormon church because he had two wives.
That's when he went to establish Colonial LeBaron.
They established five or six colonies down here.
SHANE SMITH: The colony would be like a family?
BRENT LEBARON: A few families.
SHANE SMITH: And then your grandfather had 10 wives.
Had children by eight of those 10.
SHANE SMITH: And how many grand kids did he have?
BRENT LEBARON: Between grandkids and great grandkids,
they're probably pushing the 400 mark right now.
All named LeBaron.
BRENT LEBARON: All named LeBaron.
SHANE SMITH: Now, having more than 400 grandchildren might
seem extreme to some, but it's nothing compared to the shit
that Brent's Uncle Ervil got up to.
He was a straight up fucking lunatic.
Now Ervil not only had 13 wives and over 50 children,
but he also used his own family, including his own
kids, as assassins.
Dubbed "The Mormon Manson," Ervil and his family were
suspects in over 40 murders.
Joel LeBaron was killed by his own brother Ervil because of
blood atonement?
Well, Ervil tried to take over the Church and he started
claiming blood atonement, the right to kill
in the name of God.
If you oppose him, he has the right to kill you.
Once Ervil snapped, he just went on a killing spree.
He had his daughters killed, his wives killed, his sons
killed and it just went from there.
He went haywire.
SHANE SMITH: So Ervil goes on this killing spree across
Mexico and the United States.
And at one point the Secret Service is after him because
he threatens to kill President Carter.
They finally captured Ervil in 1979 and sent him to prison,
and all the killing stops, right?
And then after he dies in jail, people keep
on killing for him.
He killed up to 25 people after he died because he left
a sort of hit list, and they just kept killing.
BRENT LEBARON: They kept killing.
Yes, they did.
SHANE SMITH: Now as Brent is telling me all this, I had to
keep in mind that this blood atonement killing spree isn't
taking place in the 1880s or anything, this is all
happening in the 1980s.
BRENT LEBARON: My grandfather ran from him
for probably 10 years.
BRENT LEBARON: I mean, he chased my
grandpa clear to Nicaragua.
SHANE SMITH: Your great uncle was trying to kill your
Verlan M. LeBaron died in a car accident right out of
Mexico City.
A lot of people have been skeptical that actually Ervil
had something to do with it.
And his last recorded words were "Brother, it looks like
you've been ran off the road."
SHANE SMITH: That's some crazy shit.
That's just a modern-day Cain and Abel here.
SHANE SMITH: Do you think that that's one of the reasons why,
because you had this sort of familial civil war, you got
tighter as a family?
So when the narcos came after your family you
were sort of tougher?
BRENT LEBARON: Well, definitely
everyone was a watchman.
SHANE SMITH: Now what he's saying here is that because of
Ervil, everyone in the LeBaron clan watched out
for everyone else.
So when the cartels kidnapped one of their
own, they were ready.
Eric LeBaron was only 16 when he was abducted and held for
$1 million ransom.
And you didn't pay the ransom?
BRENT LEBARON: We didn't pay the ransom.
SHANE SMITH: Even if you could get the money and paid it,
they're just going to keep doing it.
BRENT LEBARON: Just going to keep coming and keep doing it.
SHANE SMITH: They'll just use the money to buy more guns and
get more powerful.
If we don't sever the head off this monster right now, it's
just going to get worse.
We had to go to the government and say hey, you won't allow
us to bear arms, but you're supposed to protect us.
SHANE SMITH: The protest forced the government to put
pressure on the kidnappers.
And as is quite rare in these situations, Eric was returned
unharmed after paying no ransom.
However, it also served to enrage the local drug lord
named El Rikin, who only lived eight miles down the road from
Colonial LeBaron.
Now, this is a narco who loves drugs so much that he actually
massacred 18 people trying to get off the stuff at a drug
rehab center.
And now he's after the LeBarons.

BRENT LEBARON: They had threatened his family with a
hand grenade.
SHANE SMITH: So they said they'd blow up the family with
the grenade unless he surrendered.
BRENT LEBARON: Unless he opened the door.
MALE SPEAKER: They shot them four times in the head each.
10 children under the age of seven were left orphans when
that happened.