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Originally published Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 7:22 PM

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Arizona jury sentences border activist to death

An Arizona jury on Tuesday sentenced the leader of an anti-illegal-immigrant group to death in the 2009 murder of a young girl and her father in what prosecutors said was an attempt to steal drug money to fund the group's operations.

The Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. —

An Arizona jury on Tuesday sentenced the leader of an anti-illegal-immigrant group to death in the 2009 murder of a young girl and her father in what prosecutors said was an attempt to steal drug money to fund the group's operations.

Shawna Forde, the leader of the Minutemen American Defense, a small border watch group, becomes the third woman on Arizona's death row, the Pima County Attorney's Office said.

The 43-year-old Forde was convicted Feb. 14 of first-degree murder and other charges in the May 2009 home invasion in Arivaca, a desert community about 10 miles north of Mexico. Raul Flores, 29, and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia, were killed in the robbery.

Prosecutors alleged Forde and her co-defendants, Jason Eugene Bush and Albert Robert Gaxiola, dressed as law enforcement officers and forced their way into the home, then shot Flores, his daughter and his wife, Gina Gonzalez, who survived her injuries after getting into a gun battle with the attackers.

Flores was believed to be involved with drug trafficking, police said, but officers don't think the assailants found much cash or drugs in the home.

A 911 recording released by the Pima County sheriff's office captured Gonzalez pleading for help after her husband and daughter were shot. She was heard crying out in pain from a gunshot wound then becoming frantic as the attackers returned. The sound of nine gunshots was heard as Gonzalez engaged the intruders.

Bush and Gaxiola will be tried in the case at a later date.

Forde, of Everett, Wash., had pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and other charges stemming from the home invasion.

Forde's attorney, Eric Larsen, argued during the trial that Forde was never inside the home. Prosecutors disputed that contention, saying Forde was the ringleader if the operation and the law is clear.

"She didn't put a gun to Brisenia's head ... but she was the one in charge," Pima County prosecutor Rick Unklesbay told jurors. "Because of that you must hold her accountable."

Larsen said Forde talked big, but "frankly just didn't have the wherewithal to do this."

Pima County prosecutors would not comment Tuesday on the jury verdicts because of two pending trials.

Larsen would not comment when contacted Tuesday by The Associated Press.

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