The Justice Files: The execution of Ron Lafferty

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – It was a Tuesday, July 24, 1984, and Utahns were celebrating, but on a quiet street in American Fork, Ron and Dan Lafferty and two others were about to break into a home of their sister-in-law.

By night’s end, Brenda Lafferty and her 15-month-old daughter Erica were dead.

Ron Lafferty was sentenced to die for his role. Dan, considered the mastermind behind the murders, received to life sentences.

But more than three decades later, Ron Lafferty is still clinging to life.

“We just celebrated the 35th anniversary of Brenda and Erica’s passing,” said older sister Betty Wright McEntire. “It just seems like nothing was ever going to happen and I still wonder if it will even be in my lifetime.”

That’s because Ron Lafferty is using every option possible to avoid execution.

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected his latest appeal. Legal experts involved with the case claim Lafferty has run out of options. He could still appeal to the U.S. Supreme court but the issues he’s raised have been argued before. It could be months before the state issues a warrant of execution.

Sharon Wright Weeks, another sister of Brenda, has followed this journey from the beginning.

“It’s finished, it’s done,” said Weeks. “It’s been through the double, triple checking process to make sure everything was done right.”

Betty McEntire recalled that day in 1984. She was supposed to return home with Brenda to plan her wedding. But Brenda had a change of plans and stayed.

“As I was driving home I just remember having this really bad feeling and then receiving the phone call in the middle of the night from my dad,” said McEntire.

“The last time I saw her was just five days earlier on her birthday and how sad that was. She was so young and how anything so evil could have happened to somebody like her.”

The Lafferty brothers were eventually arrested, tried and convicted.

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.”

During a prison interview, Ron Lafferty acknowledged that’s what happened.

“Yes, I think I noted that as a revelation that I received while I was in the school of prophets,” Lafferty told the reporter back then.

But according to Brenda Lafferty’s sisters it was an act of revenge. Weeks said Diana Lafferty, Ron’s wife was becoming disillusioned with her marriage and reached out to Brenda for help.

“She was listening to her,” said Weeks. “There were things going on that Brenda knew in the way she lived her life and in her upbringing that were not right in a marriage.”

Primarily, polygamy was entering into their lives. Brothers Dan and Ron became fundamentalist Mormons and wanted to take on new wives.

“And Ron’s wife Diana knew that she didn’t have a good feeling about that,” said Weeks. “Brenda gave her enough courage or help or assisted in giving her enough courage to leave with the children. Ron lost everything. I mean he lost his business. His home, his family, he lost everything.”

Weeks said Ron Lafferty never got over that and blamed Brenda and sought revenge. Tomorrow in part two of the execution of Ron Lafferty, is there forgiveness on the part of Brenda’s family?

The Lafferty murders became the focus of the book “Under the banner of Heaven” by Jon Krakauer.

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