Nine US citizens - including three moms and six children - were massacred on a road in northern Mexico, possibly because of a drug cartel their SUV caravan for rivals, authorities said on Tuesday
The doomed group - part of a Mormon community that settled in Mexico decades ago to pursue polygamy - included a 29-year-old mom fatally shot in the chest to get the drug thugs to stop, Mexican prosecutors said.
Before dying, the mother, Christina Marie Langford Johnson, put her 7-month-old daughter Faith's seat on the vehicle's floor, likely saving the baby's life, relatives said.
Another woman and her children were burned alive in their Chevy Tahoe, authorities and kin said.
"Kendra Lee Miller wrote on Facebook."
"They were ambushed by the Mexican cartels; shot, burned and murdered in cold blood. These were innocent civilians, American citizens simply trying to live peaceful lives. "
Seven children in the vehicles, in addition to Johnson's baby, survived the carnage. The seven, all siblings, they were saved when they brushed their SUVs before walking back to their community to get help.
At least five children were injured, including one girl who was shot in the face.
The slaughter occurred about 70 miles south of the Arizona border, reports said.
LeBaron family, which settled in Sonora decades ago, after the Mormon church in Utah banned polygamy.
Dawna Langford, 43 - were headed to see family, possibly for a wedding in Chihuahua, reports said.
The third SUV was driven by mom Rhonita Maria Miller, 30. She was on her way to pick up her husband at Phoenix airport to celebrate their anniversary, kin said. She had four of them in her car: Howard, 12, Krystal, 10, and 8-month-old twins Titus and Tiana.
But the Miller's vehicle, the Tahoe, got a flat tire on the dirt road and before it could get help, the vehicle was under siege, riddled by bullets. One of the bullets apparently ignited the SUV's gas tank, causing it to explode.
She and the kids "were burnt to a crisp," a related said.
Meanwhile, several miles ahead, gunmen opened fire on the other two vehicles.
Langford was shot Suburban along with her 11-year-old son, Trevor, and 2-year-old son, Rogan. She had seven children in her car with her son.
Authorities said they recovered more than 200 shell casings, from the scene, which stretched over several miles. A relative who came upon the bloodshed shortly after said there were "50 to 60" men "armed to the teeth" still milling along a mile of road.
Relatives said the victims were casualties of escalating war between drug cartels, including the Sinaloa faction once headed by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and those of Chihuahua and Juarez. Guzman sentenced to life behind bars this year after a sensational Brooklyn federal court trial.
Authorities said he is unclear whether or not the victims - who were dual US - Mexican citizens - they were targeted because of the LeBaron family's past skirmishes with the ever-encroaching cartels or simply the wrong place at the wrong time.
Mexico's security minister, Alfonso Durazo, said at the press conference that the women 's SUVs "could have been confused by the criminal groups that are fighting in the region."
SUVs are the vehicle of choice for the cartels.
Still, the LeBaron family is no stranger to disputes with the cartel. In 2009, kidnapped drug traffickers at 16-year-old male related and demanded ransom. The family refused to pay, and the man was eventually freed.
But then a cartel shot dead the man's brother, 31-year-old Benjamin LeBaron, claiming he was in retaliation for his anti-drug activism.
Law enforcement sources told The Post that authorities haven’t been discounted that the victims may have been targeted.
Hells Angels motorcycle group in the US, a source said.
The FBI is involved in the investigation into Monday's massacre.
Relatives of the victims said they had not received any warnings of a potential threat.