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Infamous Utah killer Ron Lafferty dies in prison

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SALT LAKE CITY — One of Utah’s most infamous death row inmates died Monday, according to the Utah State Prison.

Ron Lafferty, who turned 78 last Monday, had apparently been ill for some time.

After years in the prison’s maximum security Uinta unit, prison officials moved Lafferty to the medium security Wasatch facility, the oldest building on the complex and the one that contains the infirmary. The state’s other seven death-row inmates are housed at Uinta, according to the Utah Department of Corrections website.

In his most recent prison photo he had his head on a pillow in a bed. Rather than the standard issue orange prison jumpsuit, he was wearing what appears to be a hospital gown. He had dark circles around his eyes, a bushy gray beard and brownish gray hair.

Prison officials would not comment Lafferty’s health. They also for “security and safety reasons” do not share information on when and where an offender is moved, said Kaitlin Felsted, Utah Department of Corrections spokeswoman.

One-time members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ron and Dan Lafferty became disenchanted with the faith and joined a group called the School of the Prophets. They disapproved of their sister-in-law because they believed she was the reason Ron Lafferty’s wife left him after refusing to allow him to marry a second wife.

Claiming a revelation from God, they slashed the throats of Brenda Lafferty, and her 15-month-old daughter, Erica, nearly decapitating the toddler. The killings took place on July 24, 1984, the day commemorating Latter-day Saint pioneers’ arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. Ron Lafferty said the revelation told him to “remove” the two, along with two of Brenda Lafferty’s friends, to keep them from “obstructing God’s work.”

The brothers, along with two drifters, then went to the first friend’s house, but no one was home so they broke in and left. They planned to stop at the house of another of her friends but got lost. FBI agents later arrested them in Reno, Nevada.

The Laffertys were to go on trial together until Ron Lafferty tried to hang himself to death in jail as well as attempted to kill his brother. Both were convicted in separate trials in 1985. A lone holdout juror spared Dan Lafferty a death sentence. Ron Lafferty’s conviction was overturned on appeal and he went on trial again in 1996. A jury again convicted him and sentenced him to death.

One of the longest serving condemned inmates in the country, Ron Lafferty had sat on death row for the more part of 34 years. ( He was moved to the Utah County jail during his retrial in 1996.)

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Dennis Romboy
Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.


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