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Arizona anti-immigration activist convicted of murder

TUCSON, Arizona (Reuters) - A jury on Monday found the leader of an Arizona anti-illegal immigration group guilty of two counts of first degree murder in the killings of a father and his 9-year-old daughter in a home invasion.

Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty against Shawna Forde, 43, the founder and leader of the Minutemen American Defense group in the May 30, 2009 shooting deaths of Brisenia Flores, 9, and her father, Raul Junior Flores, 29 in Arivaca, a small town in southern Arizona.

The jury also convicted Forde, a part-time resident of Washington state and Arizona, of attempted first-degree murder in the shooting of Flores' wife, Gina Gonzalez, 31, together with related counts of aggravated assault and robbery.

During the trial, prosecutors alleged Forde planned to use funds from the robbery to bankroll her border watch group, according to news reports.

Forde turned up at the family's home during the night and identified herself and a companion as police officers looking for fugitives, the Arizona Daily Star newspaper reported.

The gunman then shot and killed Flores and his daughter and wounded Gonzalez, who survived and managed to call 911.

The jury of 11 women and one man began deliberations Friday morning in the trial, which began January 5.

Two co-defendants, Albert Robert Gaxiola and Jason Eugene Bush, were charged with Forde in the shootings and are awaiting trial.

Prosecutors allege that Forde and Gaxiola chose the house and initiated and led the attacks, according to court documents.

Prosecutors cited multiple murders, a victim under age 15 and monetary gain as circumstances supporting the death penalty. The next phase of the trial, in which the presence or absence of factors supporting the death penalty, begins Tuesday.

(Reporting by Brad Poole; writing by Tim Gaynor; editing by Greg McCune)

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