The Southeast Missourian reports…
“A Scott County judge sentenced a former Bloomfield, Missouri, pastor convicted in a murder-for-hire plot to 50 years in prison Wednesday [March 9] in Stoddard County, Missouri, Court but allowed him to post bond while the case is being appealed.
Donald Lafferty, 71, of Queechee, Vermont, was convicted in January of hiring Brandi and Christopher Hicks of Dexter, Missouri, to burn his home near Bloomfield and kill his wife in January 2013. The Hickses were to receive $15,000, plus another $5,000 if she died in the fire.
Lafferty also was convicted of defrauding his mother of $86,000 in a separate incident.
Judge David Dolan on Wednesday [March 9] sentenced Lafferty to 50 years in prison — consecutive sentences of 15 years for attempted murder, 15 years for arson and 20 years for financial exploitation of the elderly.
Another sentence of 10 years in prison for a charge of armed criminal action will run concurrently to the other prison terms. The sentences were in accordance with the recommendations of Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Russell Oliver.
“I think that for all the things that the defendant did, it is very appropriate,” Oliver said. “Especially, that count four was consecutive to the remaining counts. I felt that was necessary, because it was a separate transaction that occurred nearly a year after counts one through three.”
Lafferty maintained his innocence at sentencing despite the findings of the jury in January. Defense lawyer Daniel Moore said his client rejected an offer by the state in exchange for testimony against Chris Hicks because he did not commit a crime.
“There were some negotiations by the prosecutor’s office as to whether Don Lafferty would be interested in testifying in Chris Hicks’ upcoming trial. My client is not interested in doing that because his position has been, and he has always maintained, that he is completely innocent in this,” Moore said.
Oliver disagreed with Lafferty’s claim of innocence, saying the evidence against him is overwhelming.
“There was a mountain of evidence in this case,” Oliver said. “This case had more circumstantial evidence than any case I’ve ever heard of. No matter what argument you make on behalf of Donald Lafferty, all of those arguments go to a dead end because of the circumstantial evidence.”
“If he wants to say he didn’t know it was going to happen, how did he know the time to get the computer out of the house? How did he know when to get the cedar chest out of the house? How did he know how to leave at the exact right time to go and develop his alibi?” Oliver asked rhetorically.
Dolan will allow Lafferty to post $250,000 cash bond as his case moves through appeals, which could take a year or more. Lafferty will be prohibited from contacting victims and must relinquish his passport and travel documents.
“We will be filing a notice of appeal today,” Moore said. “I will speak with his family to see if we can come up with the additional money he will need. The appeal will last probably a year or longer. The Constitution provides for it. It’s not a capital offense; it’s just a question if that (bond) can be made.”
According to court documents, Donald’s wife, Mildred Lafferty, woke during the night of Jan. 12, 2013, to discover her home was on fire. Investigators with the Missouri State Fire Marshal’s Office determined the blaze was arson, set by gasoline and a butane lighter.
During later interviews with investigators, Mildred Lafferty said shortly before the fire, she awoke to find her husband moving a computer out of the house, along with a cedar chest of personal effects that had been there 16 years.
Donald Lafferty allegedly told his wife he was moving the chest because he kept stubbing his toe and the computer because “it was smoking, and he didn’t want it to catch the house on fire.”
Investigators later discovered a relationship between Brandi Hicks and Donald Lafferty and found calls and texts were exchanged the night of the fire.
Brandi Hicks told investigators she and her husband, Chris, met Donald Lafferty at a church where he was pastoring and made the deal to burn the Lafferty home and kill Mildred, according to court documents.
She also told investigators she accompanied Chris Hicks to the home the night of the arson and described the events of the crime, saying the couple went back to the home after the fire to steal pills.
Lafferty fled to Vermont and Massachusetts before being apprehended May 2014 in North Andover, Massachusetts, where his daughter lives.”