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Arizona Jury Hands Nativist Murderer Shawna Forde Death

Shawna Forde, the anti-immigrant vigilante leader who orchestrated the murder of a Latino man and his 9-year-old daughter, will receive the death penalty, a Pima County, Ariz., jury decided today.

The decision is binding on the judge hearing the case.

The case of Forde, a one-time member of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps who went on to found her own Minuteman American Defense (MAD) group, didn’t get much attention from the national mainstream media. But among immigrant rights groups, Forde has become a symbol of the vicious hatreds that seems to lie just beneath the surface of the contemporary nativist movement. Forde targeted the family in the hope of stealing money to fund her MAD organization.

Two followers of Forde, Albert Gaxiola and Jason Bush, are scheduled to be tried separately later this year.

Forde was convicted on Feb. 14 of two counts of murder for the killing of Raul Flores and his daughter, Brisenia, in May 2009, along with the attempted murder of the child’s mother. She was also convicted of two counts of aggravated assault and one count each of aggravated robbery, armed robbery and burglary.

Forde led her two followers into the Flores home in Arivaca, Ariz., believing that Raul Flores was a drug dealer who would have plenty of cash on hand. Prosecutors have said that Bush was the gunman and first shot Flores dead and then shot his wife in the leg. He then allegedly walked over to Brisenia, who was sleeping with her puppy on the couch, shooting her twice in the head at close range.

Forde was once well known on the nastier end of the nativist movement, and in fact hobnobbed with many of its leaders. After her arrest, however, most of her former friends in the movement ran from her as fast as their feet could take them, suggesting that they had actually never really liked her at all.

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