Two Highland residents who escaped the wrath of the alleged "removal revelation" that Ronald W. Lafferty said he received 12 years ago will testify early next week as the prosecution wraps up its case in the double homicide retrial.
Richard Stowe, a church leader who presided over Lafferty's excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is expected to take the witness stand Monday morning. Also scheduled to testify is Chloe Low, a church leader who counseled Diana Lafferty during her divorce from Ron.Jurors heard short testimony Thursday from experts at the state crime lab. Because of scheduling conflicts, no testimony was heard Friday.
Also, one male juror was dismissed from the case Thursday because of illness. The jury is now made up of seven men and seven women, two of which are alternates.
Lafferty is being retried for the killings of Brenda Wright Lafferty, 24, and her infant daughter Erica, 15 months, because the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that his 1985 conviction was flawed. The court said Lafferty was not competent at the time.
Lafferty's brother Dan also was convicted of the crimes and is serving a life sentence.
The victims, Lafferty's sister-in-law and niece, were found July 24, 1984, in their American Fork apartment with their throats slashed. Several witnesses have already testified that both were named in a revelation Lafferty claimed to have received from God in the spring of 1984 that called for the "removal" of Brenda, Erica, Low and Stowe.
Prosecutors believe the two were killed out of revenge for encouragement Brenda gave Diana during her divorce. The state is alleging that Ron and Dan Lafferty barged into Brenda's apartment, beat her, and sliced her and her baby's throat. They believe a similar fate was planned for Low and Stowe.
Charles Carnes, one of two drifters who waited outside when the killings allegedly occurred, testified earlier that he, Ron, Dan and drifter Richard Knapp drove to Low's home after leaving Brenda's apartment on the afternoon of July 24, 1984. When Low wasn't home, the four burglarized her residence. They then drove toward Stowe's house, but decided God didn't want him killed when they missed the turnoff to his home, Carnes said.
Besides being charged with two counts of capital murder, Lafferty is also charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit murder and two counts of aggravated burglary.
Crime experts testified Thursday that a boning knife that Carnes discarded from Lafferty's car the night of the killings and a pocket knife found in the car both showed "possible" traces of blood. But there was no positive evidence that the blood was human. Also, "possible" traces of blood were found on the boots Ron and Dan Lafferty were wearing when arrested in Reno, Nev. Only a trace on Dan's boot was determined to be human blood.
Blood on the walls and drapes of the American Fork apartment matched that of Brenda. One expert testified that a bloody imprint on the drapes could have been made by the boning knife that Carnes tossed out the window.
After the state rests its case Monday afternoon, defense attorney Mike Esplin is expected to give his opening arguments. Lafferty presented no defense in his first trial, but his attorneys plan on presenting about two weeks' worth of evidence. Their main witness will be Dan Lafferty, who is expected to claim responsibility for both killings.
Because of past experience, many court observers expected Ron Lafferty to be disruptive during his retrial. Judge Steven L. Hansen even equipped an adjacent room with closed circuit television to send him there in case that happened. Lafferty's attorneys previously argued that their client's verbal outbursts are his way of casting evil spirits from court personnel.
But Lafferty has sat quietly through the entire trial and has seldom shown signs of agitation.