Ron Lafferty: Polygamist cult leader who killed sister-in-law, toddler niece could face a firing squad

A Utah death row inmate who killed his sister-and-law and her child is reportedly months away from being executed by a firing squad after a federal court rejected his latest appeal on Monday.

After breaking into their sister-in-law and her husband’s home, Ron Lafferty and his brother, Dan Lafferty, reportedly beat and strangled Brenda Lafferty, 24, before slitting her throat. Dan Lafferty then slit his 15-month-old niece’s throat. The pair committed the slayings because they were angry that their sister-in-law opposed their brother joining their polygamist cult, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Dan Lafferty was sentenced to life in prison for the 1984 slayings while Ron Lafferty was sentenced to death in 1996. Awaiting execution, the 78-year-old inmate unsuccessfully argued that his trial lawyers misrepresented him, that he should have been found incompetent to stand trial, and that he should not have been prosecuted a second time after winning a prior appeal.

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In 2004, Utah terminated the firing squads except for inmates who were already sentenced to death and had selected the option. Utah reinstated firing squads in 2015—but only when the state doesn’t have the drugs required to carry out lethal injections, the news outlet explained.

As a result, it’s legal for Lafferty to die via firing squad, as he explicitly requested the method of execution decades earlier.

Lafferty can appeal the 10th Circuit Court’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, Andrew Peterson, with the Utah Attorney General’s Office, told The Tribune that it’s “incredibly unlikely” the highest court will hear the case, meaning the death row inmate is months away from being executed.

Peterson went on to tell KSL that the state will seek a warrant of execution for Lafferty, adding it would be an affront to the victims’ family if he died of old age.

He said, “We’ve been attempting for several decades to have his judgment carried out.”

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[Featured image: Ron Lafferty/Utah Department of Corrections]