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‘Under The Banner of Heaven’ killer could face firing squad as appeals run out

Local (Utah/State News)

DRAPER (ABC4 News) – It could be the final chapter for Ron Lafferty, the subject of a bestselling book.

The man convicted of two of Utah’s most notorious and horrific murders could face a firing squad in just months after his latest legal appeals were denied Monday.

Lafferty has sat on Utah’s Death Row for over 34 years but now it appears his time and his options are running out. 

It was a crime so heinous and bizarre it became the subject of Jon Krakauer’s 2003 bestseller Under the Banner of Heaven. On July 24th, 1984, brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty slit the throats of their 24-year-old sister-in-law Brenda and their 15-month-old niece Erica at a duplex in American Fork. 

In an interview with ABC4 News, Ron, the leader of his own FLDS offshoot cult called the School of Prophets, claimed that God had given him a revelation that he must “remove” the young mother and her baby daughter.

“Yes, I think I noted that as a revelation that I received while I was in the School of the Prophets, yes,” he said from inside his death row cell. 

Dan Lafferty was sentenced to life in prison while Ron was sentenced to die and chose the firing squad as his method of execution. 

For years his attorneys have argued that Ron wasn’t competent to stand trial but the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals resoundingly rejected that Monday.

In a statement, his attorney Dale Baich said “…the court relied on procedural technicalities to deny Mr. Lafferty a complete appellate review of his case. We are carefully reviewing the decision and going forward, we will exercise all state and federal legal options.” 

Now the U.S. Supreme Court may be the only barrier between Lafferty and the firing squads’ bullets. On the phone Tuesday, Baich told ABC4 News that he will ask the nation’s highest court to review the case.

If Mr. Lafferty is executed he would be the first to die by the firing squad since Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed that way in 2010. He would also be the oldest prisoner executed in the United States since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

Ron Lafferty is one of 8 men currently on death row and they’ve all been there more than 20 years. 

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