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Teen from polygamous LeBaron family abducted

Fundamentalists and others decry crimes in Mexican region

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Furious over the kidnapping of a son of the LeBaron polygamous family, a caravan of fundamentalists, Mennonites and even Mormons protested to Mexico's regional governor over the apparent lawlessness sweeping the region.

Eric LeBaron, 16, and one of his younger brothers were abducted Saturday by a group of men with guns in the mountains near Colonia LeBaron in Mexico, relatives said. The younger boy was released to tell his father, Joel LeBaron Jr., about the kidnapping.

"They've called three different times. They've asked for a million dollars," Craig LeBaron, a relative of the kidnapped boy in Mexico, told the Deseret News on Monday. "They won't negotiate with us."

The next day, another person was kidnapped near Nuevo Casas Grandes. That apparently was the tipping point for people in Colonia LeBaron, who organized a caravan of about 500 people to travel to the regional governor in Chihuahua to demand that something be done. They included members of the Mennonite community and even members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"This has nothing to do with religion or ethnic groups," LeBaron said. "It's hitting everybody."

The army was sent up to the mountains to search for Eric LeBaron but there has been little success, relatives said. Joel LeBaron Jr. is devastated by the kidnapping and family members said they were unsure if they would ever see Eric again. Benjamin LeBaron, Eric's older brother, told Phoenix TV station KTVK that they do not believe they were targeted because of their faith.

"We believe we're targeted because they believe that we have wealth," he said.

At the same time, people in Colonia LeBaron feel they have been backed into a corner — that even if they could afford the $1 million ransom, it wouldn't end the kidnappings. Abductions have swept the area, believed to be linked to the drug cartels in the region.

"If you give them a cookie, they'll want a glass of milk," Craig LeBaron said. "If we don't make a stand here it's only a matter of time before it's my kid."

Colonia LeBaron, with roots in Utah, was established in 1924 near Galeana, Chihuahua, by polygamist Alma Dayer LeBaron to escape authorities. About 1,500 people currently live there, working as farmers. Only a handful still practice polygamy, family members say.

E-MAIL: bwinslow@desnews.com