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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Butler Who Inherited Fortune, Murder Allegations, Dies At 51

Associated Press

Bernard Lafferty, the butler who inherited a fortune from tobacco heiress Doris Duke, then nearly lost it over allegations he murdered her, was discovered dead in his bed Monday.

Friends staying at the yellow Bel-Air Estates mansion he bought recently found the pony-tailed butler when they checked his room at about 5:30 a.m. Paramedics pronounced Lafferty dead an hour later, said Scott Carrier, a coroner’s spokesman.

Lafferty spokeswoman Judy Miller said “he had very high blood pressure,” and apparently died of natural causes. Carrier said there was no sign of foul play.

Carrier said Lafferty was 51.

Lafferty was named the executor of an estate now valued at $1.5 billion when Doris Duke, the only child of American Tobacco Co. founder James Buchanan Duke, died in 1993 at age 80. Her will also gave him a central role in the charitable foundation formed to dispense most of the fortune.

The estate was thrown into turmoil when Duke’s deathbed nurse, Tammy Payette, alleged that Lafferty and a doctor murdered the heiress with an overdose of morphine and Demerol at her home above Beverly Hills.

In July, the county district attorney’s office announced it had concluded there was “no credible evidence” that Duke was murdered.

Payette encountered legal troubles after making the allegations.

Private investigators began tracking her and caught her pawning jewelry and other valuables from the homes of her wealthy patients, including Duke’s.

Payette was sentenced to eight years in prison for theft.