The Justice Files: Eye to eye with Ron Lafferty

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – He went eye to eye with Ron Lafferty the convicted killer who is on death row.

Dr. Noel Gardner was appointed by the courts to evaluate Lafferty in 1993. But he continued his meetings with Lafferty over the course of several years when the need for a psychiatric evaluation was needed.

Gardner made his final report in 2012 and never wavered from his findings that Lafferty was competent to stand trial or understood the appeal process.

“I told him he was quite narcissistic and told him ‘my you’re quite a student and brilliant’ and he liked that,” said Dr. Gardner.

Gardner had a degree in theology and using that background clicked with Lafferty.

In 1984, Lafferty had a revelation that he must kill his sister-in-law, her child, and two others.

That year, he and his brother Dan carried out that order. They went into the home of their brother Allan in American Fork.

Allan’s wife, Brenda was brutally stabbed to death as was their baby daughter.

His brother Dan was convicted of the murders but avoided the death penalty when a juror held out. He was sentenced to life in prison.

After two trials, Ron Lafferty was sentenced to die in 1996. But over the next decade, he appealed on several issues including competency.

And Dr. Gardner was there to evaluate Lafferty when summoned. The psychiatrist tapped into Lafferty’s religious views and described them this way.

“(The views were) so idiosyncratic, unusual, odd, eccentric and extreme that I think it fooled a lot of experts thinking that he was seriously mentally ill,” said Dr. Gardner.

He was one of several psychiatrists that evaluated Lafferty on behalf of the courts.

Gardner found that Lafferty wasn’t suffering from mental illness but had a severe personality disorder.

Lafferty along with his brother was pursuing a polygamous lifestyle and abandoned his Latter-day Saint faith.

The brothers were now members of the School of Prophets in Utah County. Gardner said Lafferty’s views were pieced together from books and the pioneers.

“But that is completely different from what we see in patients with severe mental illness where these ideas come up from nowhere,” he said.

As for the crime itself, Gardiner claimed Lafferty implicated himself and understood those comments could be used against him.

He said Lafferty blamed the federal government for his troubles. He told Gardner that he was the “victim of an unjust system” and the government shouldn’t “murder” him.

“(He said) that’s proof that they are evil but he said if they’re going to do it, I want to be executed by firing squad and they can have the blood on their hands,” said Gardner.

He said that line of thinking isn’t from someone who suffers from mental illness.

Others who evaluated Lafferty disagreed with his conclusions but in the end, a federal judge found Lafferty competent.

Meanwhile, Lafferty’s appeals are nearly exhausted and many believe his days are numbered after his latest appeal was denied.

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