A municipal police chief has been arrested for his suspected links to the killing of three women and six children of US-Mexican origin in northern Mexico last month, local media and an official have said.
Suspected drug cartel hitmen shot dead the nine Mormon women and children in Sonora state on November 4, sparking outrage in Mexico and the United States.
Several Mexican media outlets have reported that law enforcement agents arrested Fidel Alejandro Villegas, police chief of the municipality of Janos, which lies in the neighbouring state of Chihuahua, on suspicion of involvement in the crime.
The reports said he is suspected of having ties to organised crime, but details of his alleged role were not clear.
A federal official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the arrest of Villegas, which follows the detention of other suspects earlier in the investigation.
He was the fourth person arrested in relation to the murders.
Mexican officials believe the women and children were killed after becoming caught up in a dispute between local drug cartels battling for control of the area.
Under pressure from the Trump administration, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sought US cooperation in the case, inviting the FBI to help in the investigation
Christina Langford Johnson, 31, Rhonita Miller, 30, and Dawna Ray Langford, 43, were killed along with six children as they were driving through northern Mexico to see relatives.
The area has been engaged in a turf war involving the Sinaloa drug cartel, but relatives believe the deaths were a case of mistaken identity.
Charred remains found of Rhonita Miller and four children
Julian LeBaron, a cousin of all three mums, told the New York Times, Ms Miller’s car had broken down.
Ms Miller, also known as Rhonita LeBaron, was heading to an airport in Phoenix, in the US state of Arizona, to meet her husband.
A relative, who did not want his name used, said in an interview that when they finally made it to the scene where the ambush started — about 18 kilometres from where the two other mums were killed — they found a burnt-out Chevy Tahoe.
Inside, they saw the charred remains of Ms Miller, her 10-year-old daughter Krystal, her son Howard, 12, and eight-month-old twins named Titus and Tiana.
Alex LeBaron, a member of the family, told CNN “women and children were massacred and burned alive” in the attack.
“Mothers were screaming for the fire to stop,” he told CNN.
Tiffany Langford, another member of the family, wrote on Facebook “mostly ashes and only a few charred bones (were) left to identify that all five had been inside” Ms Miller’s car.
Prosecutors said Ms Johnson had waved her arms in the air to signal she wasn’t a threat to the cartel but was shot. Mr LeBaron told the Times “they shot her point blank in the chest”.
Ms Johnson’s seven-month-old daughter, Faith Marie Johnson, was discovered uninjured in her car seat.
A short distance away, Ms Langford was found dead in the front seat of another van, along with the bullet-riddled bodies of her sons, Trevor 11, and Rogan, 2.
All of the victims were apparently related to the extended LeBaron family in Chihuahua, east of La Mora, whose members have run foul of the drug traffickers over the years.
Benjamin LeBaron, an anti-crime activist who founded neighbourhood patrols against cartels, was killed in 2009.
With Reuters and AAP
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