SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – Brenda Lafferty’s sister doesn’t feel cheated that her killer will not be executed after all.
Monday, the Utah Department of Corrections said Ron Lafferty died from natural causes while on death row.
Lafferty has been on death row for more than three decades. In 1984, he and his brother Dan murdered their sister-in-law Brenda Lafferty and her young child Erica.
“Our family is grateful,” said Sharon Weeks. “We feel like it’s just as well that he passed on his own.”
Weeks is Brenda Lafferty’s older sister. Over the years she has stayed in touch with Allen Lafferty, Brenda’s husband and brother to the Lafferty brothers.
According to Weeks, Ron Lafferty was in a wheelchair and had a caretaker during his last year in prison. She wasn’t surprised he passed away.
“I do know that he was frail and had been for some time, that he had not been feeling well,” Weeks said. “I don’t believe that he has been able to walk for a while.”
In 1984, the Lafferty brothers drifted from their Mormon religion and became members of a fundamentalist religious group called the School of Prophet. Lafferty claimed to have received a divine revelation to eliminate those who stood in the way.
Following his arrest, Ron Lafferty was open about his religious thinking and wasn’t shy in telling reporters about that revelation.
“The prophecies are about to be fulfilled,” Ron Lafferty once told reporters.
Later following his second trial, Lafferty agreed to a prison interview with an ABC4 reporter.
“I think I noted that as a revelation while I was in the school of prophets. Yes,” Lafferty told reporter Paul Murphy.
Murphy: “Words from God?”
Lafferty: “I don’t have any problems with that.”
But in that same prison interview, Lafferty denied murdering Brenda and her daughter.
Lafferty: “Why would they execute me? They don’t have any grounds. I am innocent of all those stupid charges.”
Murphy: “You never killed Brenda Lafferty?”
Lafferty: “No. I never admitted to that.”
It was the last known interview Lafferty gave to the media. Of course, the Utah County jury didn’t see it as Lafferty claimed. He faced two trials. The first jury sentenced him to die but was overturned. During his second trial, there were competency issues but after his health was restored Lafferty was again sentenced to die.
Last August, the federal court of appeals denied an appeal that many believed spelled the end for Lafferty. The Attorney General’s Office claimed he was months away from execution.
In the end, he avoided execution. But the sister of Brenda Lafferty doesn’t feel cheated.
“I absolutely felt a huge amount of relief when I heard the news that he had passed,” said Weeks. “Because I preferred that he passed peacefully than have to go through what all of us were going to have to go through.”
In a prepared statement, Lafferty’s attorney claimed this was someone who suffered from mental illness and never got the treatment he needed while in prison.
While alive, Lafferty denied he was mentally ill.
“One expert said that if he was guilty of faking anything, he was guilty of pretending to be normal when he was not,” wrote Therese Michelle Day, Assistant Federal Public Defender, District of Arizona. “Mr. Lafferty, like other mentally ill prisoners, was not treated for his mental illness as he should have been.”
Utah’s Attorney General Sean Reyes also issued a statement following the word of Lafferty’s death.
“The State of Utah has labored for decades to provide justice for Brenda and Erica Lafferty, who were brutally murdered by Ron and Dan Lafferty. That the wheels of justice turn so slowly in cases like this is cruel and tragic. Now that Mr. Lafferty is facing his Maker, perhaps ultimate justice will be realized and there will finally be some closure for the family of the victims.”