Convicted killer Dan Lafferty Tuesday told 4th District jurors that he slashed the throats of both his sister-in-law and her infant daughter.
The testimony comes as his brother Ron Lafferty begins exercising a right he didn't exercise 11 years ago - defending himself against two charges of capital murder.Ron and Dan Lafferty were convicted in 1985 by separate juries of killing Brenda Wright Lafferty, 24, and her daughter Erica, 15 months. The victims were found July 24, 1984, in American Fork with their throats slashed.
Dan Lafferty is serving a life sentence at the Utah State Prison. He resides in maximum security after trying to stab a fellow inmate with a knife two years ago. Ron Lafferty was sentenced to die. However, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial when it ruled he was incompetent during his first trial.
Tuesday morning, Dan Lafferty said he pushed his way first into the apartment and knocked Brenda to the floor. Ron then pushed his way in.
Dan said Ron asked what he was going to do. "My mind was set on taking care of business."
He said Ron tried to knock Brenda unconscious and blood spattered. He said Brenda stood up, badly beaten, and asked them to hold and comfort her. Dan testified that Ron replied, "Because of you, b----, I don't have a wife to hold."
Dan testified that Brenda bolted into the kitchen, but he chased her and grabbed her by the hair. She lost consciousness and fell to the kitchen floor.
As Dan nonchalantly gave details, Brenda Lafferty's father broke down in tears in the courtroom.
Dan said he tied a vacuum cord around Brenda's neck. He said he then went into the front room, picked up the knife from the floor, walked back to the baby's crib. He said he explained to the baby that this would all make sense someday, put his left hand on the baby's head, closed his eyes and cut the child's throat. He said he had a calm, comfortable feeling while doing so.
Dan said he then went into the bathroom, washed off the knife, went into the kitchen, untied the cord, pulled on Brenda's hair with his left hand, closed his eyes and pulled the knife across her throat. He said he heard the cutting of her trachea and felt the knife on her spinal column.
"I was the arm of God. Ron was the voice of God," Dan Lafferty said.
"I'm not ashamed of what happened," he said. He said he was testifying not to help Ron, but because he believes he is the prophet Elijah preparing the world for the second coming of Christ, and testified as part of that preparation.
Dan's testimony contradicts earlier testimony of drifter Charles Carnes, who said both brothers entered Brenda's apartment. Carnes also testified that while driving out of Utah Ron bragged about killing Brenda and thanked Dan for killing the baby.
During the 1985 trial, Ron Lafferty put on no defense. His new attorneys, however, are taking advantage of the second chance granted by the federal appeals court. In the defense's opening arguments Monday, attorney Mike Esplin admitted that his client was involved in the crimes, but as a follower to his younger brother Dan.
He said the case is a story of change and a "shared paranoid delusional system." He told the seven-man, seven-women jury hearing the retrial that Dan's extreme political and religious beliefs began controlling Ron. The beliefs soon became more important to Ron than his family, marriage and church.
When the beliefs caused Ron Lafferty to lose those things, Esplin said, he became "mentally stressed." He said doctors will testify that Ron Lafferty didn't have the mental capacity to "rationally" understand his actions when the killings occurred.
The defense case began when Dan Lafferty told of how he began adopting anti-government beliefs while attending chiropractic school in California, where he refused to pay taxes on his sandwich business. He continued to ignore taxes and government regulation when he returned to Utah to take over his father's chiropractic business. He eventually surrendered his driver's license, business license, marriage license and Social Security card.
"I looked at licenses as a way for government to control your life," Dan said.
Dan said he even ran for sheriff once in an effort to protect the rights of common law. Most of his brothers soon joined him in what they called the "freedom movement." Concerned about where the movement was heading, some of the brothers' wives sent Ron over to "straighten out" Dan. Instead, Ron became involved in the same issues.
"He wasn't there too awfully long before he said `what you guys are doing is right and everybody else is wrong,' " Dan testified.
The brothers then began living by principles found in what they called the "Peacemaker Document," Dan said. The document says the ills of the world will be cured only if wives become submissive and obedient to their husbands. Dan said he believes the document was written by former LDS Prophet Joseph Smith, even though a different author is named on the document.
Dan said he conducted school and church at home, and adopted principles that prohibited medicine, electricity, watches, clocks, television and magazines. He believed women had to wear dresses at all times, shouldn't drive cars and only men could handle money. He prevented his children from talking to others and from conversing with neighbors over the fence. When his wife disobeyed the rules, he spanked her, Dan testified.
He delivered all five of the couple's children at home, Dan said. He circumcised the boys at two weeks with a surgical knife. He spoke to farm animals when they weren't producing enough. He eventually tried to get his brothers to join him in forming a self-sufficient commune in Orem.
Defense attorneys say the beliefs eventually ruined Ron's marriage and led to the "removal revelation" that Ron claims to have received from God. The revelation called for the "removal" of Brenda, Erica, and of two church leaders in Highland.