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6:47 AM Wed, Nov. 21st

State: Jury sentences border activist to death

TUCSON - An Arizona jury on Tuesday sentenced a border activist to death in the 2009 murder of a young girl and her father.

The Pima County Attorney's Office said the Tucson jury returned the death penalty verdict against 43-year-old Shawna Forde. She now becomes the third woman on Arizona's death row.

Forde was convicted Jan. 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.

Forde, 42, had pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and other charges stemming from the home invasion.

Forde was the leader of the Minutemen American Defense, a small border watch group. Prosecutors say she planned the attack to help fund its anti-immigrant operations.

Forde's co-defendants, Jason Eugene Bush and Albert Robert Gaxiola, will be tried later.

Prosecutors alleged Forde, Bush and Gaxiola dressed as law enforcement officers and forced their way into the home.

During the trial, Forde's attorney, Eric Larsen, argued 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.