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Originally published June 15, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 15, 2009 at 5:35 PM

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Everett woman held in Arizona slayings had been ousted from Minuteman group

Shawna Forde was known for her outspoken opposition to illegal immigration and even claimed last year that she was being targeted by Mexican drug cartels. But her behavior proved too much even for the Washington state chapter of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps and she was ousted from the group in 2007 for "conduct unbecoming of a member."

Seattle Times reporter

Shawna Forde was known for her outspoken opposition to illegal immigration and even claimed last year that she was being targeted by Mexican drug cartels.

But her behavior proved too much even for the Washington state chapter of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a national organization known for its surveillance of the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico.

Forde, who grew up in Everett and ran unsuccessfully for Everett City Council in 2007, was ousted by the Minuteman group two years ago for "conduct unbecoming of a member."

Forde, 41, then created the anti-illegal immigration group and focused its attention on the Mexican border with Arizona.

According to police, Forde and two associates planned and carried out an invasion robbery May 30 in the border town of Arivaca, Ariz. It left Raul Junior Flores, 29, and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia, dead.

The man's wife survived the 1 a.m. attack but was wounded in an ensuing gunfight, police said.

Forde, along with Jason Eugene Bush, 34, also of Washington state, and Albert Robert Gaxiola, 42, was arrested and charged late last week with first-degree murder, first-degree burglary and aggravated assault.

After her arrest, Forde told reporters, "I did not do it."

The Pima County Sheriff's Department said the trio planned to steal money and drugs from the victims and kill any witnesses. Forde was seeking a large sum of money to fuel her operation, the sheriff's office said.

"Shawna was actually the ringleader," said Pima County Sheriff's spokeswoman Dawn Barkman.

While Forde and Gaxiola were present, Bush did the shooting, Barkman said. Bush was injured when Flores' wife found a gun in the house and shot back. He was arrested Thursday at a nearby hospital, where he was treated for a gunshot wound to his leg. Forde and Gaxiola were arrested separately Friday on the road near Tucson.

Based on her group's Web site, Forde had been busy organizing the Minutemen American Defense. "I would like to let everyone know that we are in full operation."

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One of the group's stated missions was to gather video footage of drug smuggling and human trafficking by drug cartels. "We will expose and report what we know and find, we will recruit the serious and train the revolutionist, time for words have passed the time for bravery and conviction are now," Forde stated on the Web site.

Forde had been a member of the larger Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC), which has chapters around the country. But members of that group said they had distanced themselves from her.

Joseph Ray, director of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps for Washington state, said Forde was dismissed from the group in February 2007 for violating its operating procedures and behaving inappropriately. He gave no further explanation Sunday.

Since then Ray said his group has had no connection with Forde or her Minutemen American Defense.

"MCDC extends our heartfelt sympathy to the Flores family and regrets their loss," Ray wrote in an e-mail.

Chuck Stonex, of Alamogordo, N.M., said Forde recruited him last fall to start a new chapter of her group in New Mexico. Stonex said Forde called him May 30, the day of the attack, while he was in Arizona. Stonex said Forde told him Bush had been shot in the leg and needed him to help dress the wound.

Stonex said Forde told him Bush had been shot by a smuggler while on border patrol in the desert.

In an e-mail to The Seattle Times, Stonex said the double homicide "is NOT a Minuteman issue, nor an issue of illegal immigration or drug smuggling.

"This is nothing more than a cold blooded criminal act that was carried out by some one who had ties to a group who was known for taking a stand against the constant flow of illegal immigrants and drugs into the United States of America."

Forde has had a troubled life, according to those who know her. Late last year Forde reported a series of attacks against her and her ex-husband. She claimed her husband had been shot Dec. 22 at his North Everett home, and that a week later she had been raped and beaten at the house, according to a story in The Herald newspaper. First she suggested the attacks were carried out by the Mexican drug cartels, then later told police the assaults may have been carried out by friends of her adult son.

Forde's mother, who lives in California and who talked to The Herald, said her daughter had visited her and had talked of going down to Arizona and staging home invasions to "start taking things away from the Mexican mafia."

In August, Forde visited a Minuteman camp in Campo, Calif., according to Deborah Craig, a member of Campo Minuteman, in a Sunday e-mail to The Times.

When Forde arrived at Campo, "she had a Minuteman Civil Defense Corps badge so she presumably had been vetted by the group. Minuteman Civil Defense Corps charges a fee and does a background check," Craig stated.

Forde went with a member of the group to Camp Vigilance and was given access to the site. "She purchased a bulletproof vest from the caretaker and indicated she planned to spend the night," Craig stated.

Forde told Craig she did most of her border watching in Arizona and had her own group, the Minutemen American Defense.

"We did not hear from her directly again," Craig stated. "It takes someone truly monstrous to harm a child."

Kristi Heim: 206-464-2718 or kheim@seattletimes.com

Information from The Associated Press is included

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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