'Possessed' killer believed had revelation from God

AMERICAN FORK, Utah -- Three polygamist cult members charged with the slashing deaths of a woman and her baby carried what they believed was a hand-written revelation from God to kill six people, police said Friday.

Police Chief Randy Johnson said cult leader Ronald Lafferty, the brwther-in-law of the woman who was killed -- believed God had told him to 'execute' a list of people, including Mormon Church leaders who ordered his excommunication.


Lafferty was being sought Friday along with his brwther Dan, Rick Knapp and a cult member identified only as 'Chip.' Each has been charged with first-degree murder.

Lafferty, 42, a former Highland City councilman, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of Brenda Wright Lafferty, 24, and her daughter, Erica. Police say the victims were found in a blood-spattered room Tuesday. Their throats had been slashed.

Johnson said police were told Lafferty carried a hand-written list of people who he believed God, in a revelation, had ordered him to kill. He said the list included the victims and Mormon Church officials who had ordered Lafferty's excommunication.

The church officials were told to move in with relatives and let no one else know where they are living, Johnson said.


The Mormon Church practiced polygamy after its founding in the mid 1800s, but banned the practice as a condition for Utah gaining its statehood in 1896. Members who practice polygamy are banished from the church rolls.

Terry Knowles, agent in charge of the FBI's Salt Lake City office, said the three men left few solid clues as to where they might have fled.

'We have no direction or focus right now as to where he might be; I've got a hunch this is not going to be the kind of case where someone simply pulls him over and picks him up,' Knowles said.

Knowles said the Laffertys were 'heavily armed, with shotguns and rifles, and should be considered armed and dangerous.'

Kaye Jensen of Provo said he was close to both the Lafferty brwthers being sought. He said two years ago they were 'moral and sensitive men who were active in their Mormon faith.'

But Jensen said in a matter of months, the two mens' lives changed drastically. Both were divorced and embraced what he said were splinter religious groups that stem from Mormonism and espouse polygamy.

Allen Lafferty, Mrs. Lafferty's husband, said he had not seen his two brwthers in about three months but knew they were in town just before the killings.


'They are so different now. It's like they are possessed or something,' Allen Lafferty said. 'I knew they were here and that their disposition had changed radically, but I couldn't anticipate anything like this happening.'

Mrs. Lafferty's father, James Louis Wright of Kimberly, Idaho, said his daughter and her husband 'had no desires to be in a polygamist group. Brenda was a good, solid member' of the Mormon Church.

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