SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – It took a jury two hours to decide Ron Lafferty should be put to death.
“I guess I wasn’t surprised,” Lafferty told a reporter back in 1985.
He was being escorted back to jail and eventually prison. But after more than three decades, Lafferty is still alive and about to enter what some believe the final chapter in his effort to stave off execution.
In July 1984, the bodies of Brenda Lafferty and her daughter Erica were found inside their American Fork home. Both their throats had been slashed.
Her brothers-in-law Ron and Dan Lafferty were arrested, tried and convicted of the murders. Dan Lafferty was sentenced to life in prison with no chance at parole. One juror held out, sparring his life.
A different jury in May 1985 determined Ron Lafferty should die.
Back then a juror was interviewed by a KTVX reporter.
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget the brutality of the incident,” said the juror whose name was not disclosed in the report. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget the struggle I had with the death penalty.”
The motive? It was God’s plan according to Ron’s infamous revelation letter in which he wrote “ye remove the following” including “my brother’s wife and her baby.”
Lafferty had become a fundamentalist Mormon and joined a Utah County church. It was then that he claimed to have received a revelation from God.
But according to Brenda Lafferty’s sister, it was revenge.
Sharon Wright Weeks said the Lafferty brothers wanted to become polygamists and take on new wives. Weeks said Brenda counseled Ron’s wife against doing that.
“Brenda gave her courage, gave her enough courage or help or assisted in giving her enough courage to leave with the children,” said Weeks.
She said Ron never got over that and blamed Brenda for losing his wife and family.
State and federal courts have ruled on Lafferty’s case for more than three decades. This latest effort, called habeas corpus was rejected by the U.S. Court of Appeals meaning his challenges are nearly over according to legal experts. Early on, he chose to die by a firing squad.
For Brenda Lafferty’s family, they’re ready for this to end.
“I’m ready to break the chains,” said Weeks. “I respect the law. It worked in our family’s favor.”
Personally, she doesn’t favor the death penalty for Ron Lafferty. But from the law’s standpoint, she said he must pay for his crime.
“I do not wish any ill will to anybody involved,” said Weeks. “I never have. My family has no malice. We do not have any thoughts of revenge.”
Ron Lafferty has spent the last 34 years in prison. He’s now 78years old. Weeks said the family would not feel cheated if he died naturally in his cell.
“My understanding is that Ron hasn’t felt very well,” said Weeks. “I have often thought along with my family members that it would be just as well if he passed away peacefully in his sleep.”
It would put an end to their horrible tragedy of 1984.
Brenda Lafferty and Erica still live on in their hearts. Weeks said her sister gifted, talented and smart, graduating from BYU.
“She absolutely knew who she was at such a young age,” said Weeks. “In looking back, I’m amazed at her. She was a warrior. She is a person who would stand up for the downtrodden.”
Brenda and Erica were buried together in the same casket in an Idaho cemetery.
Another sister said despite what happened to them, they’re together for eternity.
“That’s the most comforting thing is to know that Erica is laying in Brenda’s arms,” said Betty Wright McEntire. “And that’s the peace that we have, is that knowing that they are together.”
The next move belongs to Ron Lafferty.
He could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, accept his fate or even petition to the Utah Board of Pardons for a commutation.