Border vigilante guilty of murdering nine-year-old

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The Independent US

A former beautician turned self-appointed border vigilante has been found guilty of murdering a nine-year-old girl and her father after bursting into their home in search of drug money to finance her group's operations.

Shawna Forde, who claimed to be the head of a group that would "kick down doors and change America" may now face the death penalty after the verdict by a jury in Arizona.

The case was followed intensely especially in the American South-west, in part because of light it shed on the so-called minutemen groups that take it upon themselves to patrol the border with Mexico and try to stop or apprehend illegal migrants. Forde claimed to be the commander of one such group called the Minutemen American Defence, MAD.

Jurors heard that in May 2009, Forde and two gunmen burst into the trailer home of Raul Flores, 29, about 10 miles north of Mexico, claiming to be searching for fugitives.

Prosecutors described how one of the gunmen then shot and killed Mr Flores and his daughter, Brisenia. The girl's mother, Gina Gonzalez, survived at first by playing dead. She later shot one of the gunmen in the leg after they realised she was still alive.

Prosecutors said that the group broke into the home initially in the hope of finding money from drug deals to finance their operations. The two accomplices will be brought to trial later. "We knew that Shawna Forde was not just an unsavoury character but pretty unbalanced, as well," said Chris Simcox, the leader of another border group called Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, which expelled Forde in 2007 because she claimed to be one of its leaders.

Forde had boasted in the past about robbing drug dealers to fund MAD. Her lawyer, Eric Larsen, told the court that all her boasts were a "tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".

Ms Gonzalez was in the court for every day for the trial. Her little girl was shot twice in the head.

As well as the two murder convictions, Forde was also found guilty of attempted murder of Ms Gonzalez.

Forde later claimed her innocence in a rare post-verdict interview with the Daily Beast news site, saying she found the jury's decision "surreal" but that she felt "saddened" for the mother who has lost her child.

She said: "I wish I could say I was sorry it happened. I am not sorry on my behalf because I didn't do it."