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The Daily Beast: Minuteman Murderer, Shawna Forde, Speaks

February 15, 2011- Shawna Forde of Arizona was convicted Monday of killing a 9-year-old girl and her father. Terry Greene Sterling’s exclusive jailhouse interview with the beautician-turned-border vigilante. Forde maintains her innocence, describes the jury’s guilty verdict as “surreal,” and prepares for a possible death sentence.

On Valentine’s Day, after deliberating for about a day and a half, a Tucson jury convicted Shawna Forde of murdering 9-year-old Brisenia Flores and her dad, Raul, in a brutal 2009 home invasion on the Arizona border.

Forde, dressed in a navy-and-cream blazer and navy pants, remained calm as she listened to the verdict, even though the murder charges could lead to a death sentence in a state that does not shy from executions. The 43-year-old former child burglar, mom, beautician, and self-professed Minuteman from Everett, Washington, kept her composure, because, she told The Daily Beast in an exclusive post-verdict jailhouse interview, “you can’t freak out with the whole world watching you.”

Speaking by videophone in the Pima County Adult Detention Center, the woman prosecutors dubbed a braggart and a killer—who reportedly boasted she would “kick down doors and change America” with her border vigilante activities—maintained her innocence.

Wearing glasses, no makeup, and black-and-white striped jailhouse pajamas, Forde told me she was “extremely saddened” by the verdict. The jury of 11 women and one man also found Forde guilty of attempted murder, two counts of assault, two counts of robbery and one count of burglary. The jury gave a clear victory to prosecutors, who accused Forde of cooking up a plan to steal drugs and money from Raul Flores by gaining entry to his Arivaca, Arizona, mobile home with accomplices on the pretense of being law-enforcement officers in search of fugitives.

The verdict was “surreal” to Forde, but she said she took it like a “pro.” As the leader of Minutemen American Defense, or MAD, which she described as a large organization of patriots, she said she’d learned to “take things step by step, revamp, assess, and move forward.”

Forde, who said she’d lost a daughter herself, expressed sympathy for Gina Gonzalez, Brisenia’s mom and Raul’s wife. Gonzalez survived the horrific murders by playing dead. She testified that a woman who looked like Forde and a gunman gained entry into the family trailer by convincing her husband Raul they were police in search of fugitives. Within minutes, the gunman shot Raul, she said. Then he shot Gonzalez. Next, he pumped more rounds into Raul, killing him. As Gonzalez played dead on the floor, the gunman shot Brisenia twice in the head. Even though she was seriously wounded, Gonzalez called 911, seeking help for her dying child. But she said the woman who looked like Forde re-entered the trailer, found Gonzalez alive, and called to the gunman as she exited. Severely wounded, Gonzalez found her husband’s gun in the kitchen and shot the gunman in the leg when he entered the trailer again. (The gunman and another alleged accomplice face separate murder trials this year.)

“I wish I could say I was sorry it happened,” Forde said. “I am not sorry on my behalf because I didn’t do it.”

Brisenia’s murder became a political flashpoint among local Latinos, who became angered by the lack of outrage attending the young girl’s death. They compared the case to another borderlands murder mystery—the death of rancher Robert Krentz, which was widely blamed on a faceless Mexican narco and prompted the passage last year of Arizona’s notorious immigration law. Brisenia’s murder should have provoked similar outrage, Latinos said, but didn’t because she was a Mexican-American child.



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