- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

DEXTER, Mo. (AP) - A southeast Missouri pastor who moved to New England has been charged with enlisting his younger mistress and her husband in an unsuccessful plot to burn down his home and kill his wife.

Donald Lafferty, 69, was arrested Monday night by state police in North Andover, Massachusetts. The former Bloomfield school board member moved to Quechee, Vermont, after a January 2013 house fire that police are calling arson.

Authorities say Lafferty enlisted Brandy Hicks, 33, of Dexter and her husband, Chris Hicks, in a scheme to burn the house and collect insurance money, The Dexter Daily Statesman (https://bit.ly/1mSEX0y ) reported Tuesday. Brandy Hicks told a Stoddard County investigator that she and Lafferty started a sexual relationship after she attended his church.

Lafferty also faces a felony charge of financial exploitation of the elderly in a case involving his 89-year-old mother. In the case involving his wife, who was asleep when the fire broke out but survived, he is charged with attempted murder, armed criminal action and first-degree arson. Christopher David Hicks, 34, and his wife face identical charges.

Lafferty is being held without bond and is listed in court documents as a danger to his wife and mother. Bond for each of the other two defendants was set at $750,000, cash only.

None of the suspects have attorneys, said Jera Hutchison, a court clerk in Stoddard County. Brandy and Chris Hicks are jailed in Stoddard County; Lafferty is jailed in Massachusetts.

A probable cause statement filed by Tim McCoy, an investigator for Stoddard County Prosecutor Russell Oliver, indicates that Oliver reopened the house fire case in April after Lafferty emerged as a suspect in his mother’s exploitation.

Mildred Lafferty told McCoy that her husband may have tampered with her coffee while preparing her breakfast the morning of the fire. She said she later became ill while driving to Poplar Bluff and asked Donald Lafferty to drive her back home, where she fell asleep on a couch. Lafferty said that she awoke, she saw her husband removing a piece of family furniture as well as his computer from their home.

Brandy Hicks told the investigator that Donald Lafferty paid her bills, gave her spending money and bought her two automobiles. She said he offered her and Chris Hicks an unspecified amount of money to set the fire.

In the financial exploitation case, Lafferty is accused of stealing $86,000 from his mother’s life savings by forging bank documents.

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Information from: Dexter Daily Statesman, https://www.dailystatesman.com

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