Ron Lafferty

Ron Lafferty takes notes during his court hearing in the 4th District Courtroom of Judge Anthony Schofield in Provo, Utah, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2005. 

A death row inmate who claimed he was following divine revelation when he killed his sister-in-law and her baby daughter more than three decades ago has died at the Utah State Prison.

Officials announced Ron Lafferty died at age 78 due to natural causes on Monday morning at the Utah State Prison.

He spent the past 34 years on death row for murdering Brenda Lafferty, 24, and her 1-year-old daughter, Erica, in American Fork in 1984.

Lafferty and his brother Dan claimed they were following a revelation from God when they slashed the throats of the wife and daughter of their brother Allen. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders.

The men established a small cult with other brothers and cited divine revelation for the murders. But prosecutors claimed Ron Lafferty was mad at the woman for helping his wife divorce him.

He was one of the longest-serving death row inmates in the state after being convicted by juries in 1988 and 1996, according to the Associated Press. After his conviction in 1985 and 1996, Lafferty asked to be put to death by a firing squad.

In August, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied and dismissed four claims stating Lafferty was misrepresented by his first trial attorneys and he should not have been found competent during his two jury trials.

“In light of the record presented, we are not persuaded that reasonable jurists could differ as to the district court’s resolution of this claim,” the court stated in the 18-page ruling.

The AP reported Lafferty might have been executed by firing squad as soon as next year, according to Utah assistant solicitor general Andrew Peterson.

Utah law allows Lafferty the choice between lethal injection or firing squad, and he reportedly chose the latter in court proceedings.

The Lafferty case gained further nationwide attention after becoming the subject of Jon Krakauer’s 2003 book “Under the Banner of Heaven,” which detailed the Lafferty murders and the practice of polygamy in Utah and beyond.

The last inmate executed by a firing squad was Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010, who shot and killed a man during a robbery in 1985 in Salt Lake City.

Ashley Stilson covers crime, courts and breaking news for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2556 or astilson@heraldextra.com.

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