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Infamous death row inmate Ron Lafferty dead of natural causes

Photo: KSL.com file

DRAPER — Ron Lafferty, an inmate on Utah’s death row, died Monday of natural causes at the state prison in Draper.

Lafferty was convicted in the 1984 murders of his sister-in-law Brenda Lafferty and her baby, 15 month old Erica in American Fork.  Lafferty spent the last 34 years on death row and had selected the firing squad as his method of execution. His brother, Dan, is serving two life sentences for the same crimes. The brothers committed the crimes after Ron claimed he had received a revelation from God instructing him to do so.

The brothers were excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after expressing anti-government views. Dan had been in some trouble over refusal to pay taxes and follow traffic laws. The brothers then joined another religious group, the School of the Prophets and their four other brothers also participated, including their younger brother, Allen, who was married to Brenda. As part of their new religious direction, the brothers expressed an interest in practicing polygamy. Brenda voiced opposition to the practice and had encouraged the other wives to stand up for themselves.

The Laffertys claimed Ron received revelations from God who instructed him to remove Brenda and several others so that the work of the Lord could move forward. The ‘removal revelation’ included religious leaders who Ron felt helped his wife and kids leave him.

Ron and Dan drove to the American Fork home of Allen and Brenda Lafferty on Pioneer Day, July 24th, 1984. Investigators say Brenda sustained a substantial beating before a vacuum cord was tied around her neck and they slit her throat. Baby Erica was murdered while in her crib. Her throat had also been slit. Dan told investigators that he was the one who committed the murders. He was the hand of God, while Ron was the voice of God.

Another person on the ‘removal revelation’ list was not at home when the Laffertys arrived and they took a wrong turn while driving to the home of another church leader named on the list.

Ron Lafferty was eligible to choose the firing squad rather than lethal injection under state law because he was convicted before the state abolished the firing squad. Utah lawmakers reinstated the firing squad in capital cases starting in 2015, but for use only when lethal injection drugs are unavailable.

As recently as August, a federal appeals court rejected Ron Lafferty’s appeal, meaning he would have had to appeal next to the US Supreme Court. In October, the same appellate court denied a request for a rehearing.

Utah Corrections officials had moved Lafferty from his maximum security cell to medium security, where the prison infirmary is located. Prison officials would not comment Lafferty’s health. They also for “security and safety reasons” do not share information on when and where an offender is moved, said Kaitlin Felsted, Utah Department of Corrections spokeswoman.

Lafferty turned 78 years old last Monday.

This story will be updated.