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Trial Of Border Vigilante Accused Of Murder Draws To A Close

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Trial Of Border Vigilante Accused Of Murder Draws To A Close

Trial Of Border Vigilante Accused Of Murder Draws To A Close

TUCSON – A jury has begun deliberations in a murder trial of a Minuteman vigilante accused of killing a Mexican American family in Southern Arizona. Shawna Forde was once highly regarded by the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps before she was thrown out for her extreme behavior. Now she faces charges of first-degree murder.

Prosecutors in the capital murder case say Shawna Forde formed a splinter group called Minuteman American Defense. They say she planned a home invasion in the border town of Arivaca in 2009. Her objective: rob people she suspected of drug trafficking to fund her own patrols of the border.

In May 2009, prosecutors say Forde joined two men. Pretending to be police, they barged into Raul Flores' home. They allegedly killed him, and his daughter, Brisenia, and wounded his wife, Gina Gonzalez.

Forde is 43. She's a robust woman with dirty blonde hair.

County prosecutor Rick Unklesbay says Forde was the ringleader of the attack.

"Make no mistake about it," Unklesbay said during closing arguments. "She was the one who planned this event. She was the one who recruited the people to do this. and she went in there with them."

But the injured woman couldn't identify Forde in a photo lineup. She recognized her later in court.

Eric Larsen is Forde's lawyer. He says she was never in the home. He blamed another woman, Gina Moraga, an ex-girlfriend of one of the accused men.

"If there's a reasonable doubt in your mind that Shawna Ford was in that home, ramrodding this operation, she's not guilty," Larsen said.

A verdict is expected Friday or early next week.

Fronteras Desk senior editor Michel Marizco is an award-winning investigative reporter based in Flagstaff.