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Fugitive Arizona polygamist suspected of killing 2 sons in Mexico is returned to U.S.

A fugitive Arizona polygamist who is a suspect in the killings in Mexico of three U.S. citizens — including two of his sons — has been placed in U.S. custody.

Mexican officials on Wednesday handed over Orson William Black to federal authorities in El Paso, Texas, Ruben Jauregui, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, confirmed via email.

Black, 56, has been a fugitive since 2003 on five felony counts of sexual misconduct involving a pair of under-age sisters in Arizona.

But this month, Mexican authorities called him a suspect in the Sept. 10 shooting deaths of three American men in Mexico’s northern Chihuahua state. Two of the dead were his sons, ages 15 and 19, Mexican authorities said.

Neither Mexican nor U.S. authorities have detailed a motive for the slayings or provided complete names for the victims. Black has not been charged with murder.

Black was arrested in Mexico earlier this month when Mexican police descended on a compound in Chihuahua where he was living with a “commune” of U.S. citizens, including four wives and a “concubine,” the Chihuahua state prosecutor’s office said.

The investigation of the Sept. 10 killings led to the raid last weekend on Black’s compound, Mexican officials say.

During the operation, Mexican authorities say they detained 26 U.S. citizens who were living illegally in Mexico and were apparently part of Black’s “commune.” Among those detained, Mexican officials said, were Black’s four wives and the concubine.

The FBI and U.S. consular personnel were cooperating with Mexican authorities in the case, Mexican officials said.

Mexico had been holding Black on charges of human trafficking and “possession of wildlife species.”

The latter stemmed from the seizure during the raid on Black’s compound of 65 preserved exotic animal parts and pelts, Mexican prosecutors said. Among the items were lion-skin and bearskin rugs, stuffed birds, a pair of elephant feet and zebra and buffalo heads. Authorities did not specify the origin of the animal remnants or whether the cache was a trophy collection or had another purpose.

Mexican authorities delivered Black to U.S. officials in El Paso on the evening of Nov. 8, said Jauregui, the Customs and Border Protection spokesman. Black was alone and was turned over to El Paso police once outstanding warrants were confirmed.

Mexican officials had said they planned to deport the U.S. citizens arrested along with Black, but the 26, including nine minors, remained in Mexican custody, Felix Gonzalez, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office in Chihuahua, said on Saturday.

Black had apparently been living as a fugitive in Mexico since 2003 after fleeing the sexual misconduct charges in Arizona.

Mexican authorities said Black had acquired five properties in Chihuahua state in the vicinity of agrarian Mennonite settlements. Chihuahua is home to a large population of Mennonites, a conservative Christian denomination whose members began settling in Mexico almost a century ago after leaving Canada.

According to reports in Arizona, Black is a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Mormon splinter sect that practices a form of plural marriage. The group’s longtime leader Warren Jeffs is serving a life sentence in prison for child sexual assault.

Cecilia Sanchez of The Times’ Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.

patrick.mcdonnell@latimes.com

Twitter: @PmcdonnellLAT

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