FX’s “Under the Banner of Heaven” tells the true story of Erica and Brenda’s 1984 murders

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FX’s true crime drama, “Under the Banner of Heaven,” examines the 1984 murders of Brenda Lafferty and her 15-month-old daughter Erica, members of the Mormon church slain by Brenda’s fundamentalist brothers-in-law Ron and Dan Lafferty in what they claimed was an act of God’s will.  

The killings sent shockwaves through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from which Ron and Dan were excommunicated for their extreme religious views, the Utah community in which Brenda and her daughter lived with her husband, Ron and Dan’s youngest brother, Allen, and the nation.

Andrew Garfield is the Oscar-nominated actor who plays the role of a police officer detective. His faith is tested when he investigates murders. Garfield is inspired by real-life officers on the case. “Normal People”And “Fresh”Daisy Edgar-Jones stars as Brenda Lafferty. The limited series is based on Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction book “Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith.”

The 2003 publication of this book traces the history of the Mormon church and tells the story about the Lafferty family. It also reveals the horrific double-murder of an innocent child and mother.  

The True Story Behind ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’  

Everything in Allen Lafferty’s life changed the evening of July 24, 1984. 

After a long day of setting tiles on a site construction site, Allen drove 80 miles to American Fork, Utah and entered what would soon be called a grisly crime scene.  

Brenda Lafferty was his 24-year-old wife. Her body lay in a pool full of her blood. She had her throat cut and was badly battered. The kitchen where she had taken her final breaths was also covered in blood. The phone cord had also been pulled from the wall.  

Erica, their infant daughter, was found dead in her crib.  

Finding that no phone in their house worked, Allen fled to a neighbor’s home to call the police before returning to his wife’s side to pray and take in what had occurred before he got home.  

“And then as I stood, I surveyed the situation a little more, and realized that there had been a grim struggle,”He would then testify in court. 

Allen was immediately identified as the prime suspect in the murders his wife and daughter. But he later told investigators that Ronald Lafferty was the one they should be trying to bring to justice.  

The following day, authorities announced that he and Allen’s other brother, Dan Lafferty, had been charged with first-degree murder. However, investigators needed to find Ron. He had become extremist in his beliefs and told others that God instructed him to kill all those who had excommunicated the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  

Why Brenda Lafferty was targeted by her brothers-in-law  

Brenda Wright Lafferty was conceived on July 19, 1960. She was the youngest of five siblings and a brother. They were raised in Twin Falls (Idaho) in a Mormon home. Brenda, who is remembered by her loved ones for being beautiful and bright, competed in Miss Twin Falls Pageant, where she was first runner-up. Her dream of becoming a broadcast journalist was what she loved most.  

She went to Brigham Young University, Utah, and became a news anchor for a local newspaper. She met Allen Lafferty and they fell in love.  

Brenda, then 21, married the couple on April 22, 1982. 

It wasn’t long, though, before Brenda realized her own dreams would not be realized, her mother LaRae Wright, told Krakauer. Allen, whose family was more conservative than Brenda’s and not as responsive to Brenda’s independent nature, didn’t want Brenda to work.  

Still, Brenda’s family welcomed her husband into the fold.  

“We all liked him. He was like a wonderful big brother to us,” Brenda’s sister, Betty Wright McEntire, told Krakauer. We did not know there was so much more going on in his home. Then we started to notice how fanatical they all were.” 

Ron Lafferty’s Descent Into Extremism  

Allen’s eldest brother, Ron Lafferty viewed Brenda’s more independent inclinations as an affront to what he viewed as tenets of their faith.  

He was the first counselor to the bishop and was the councilman once more than his sister-in law. However, he was more conservative in the beginning. ‘80s, Ron’After talking with Dan, his brother Dan, he changed his beliefs.  

Dan had read “The Peace Maker,”A pamphlet from 1842 that was banned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1890. It encouraged polygamy and other extremes associated with the religion. Though Ron was initially the only Lafferty sibling to steer clear of Dan’s discussions around the beliefs espoused in the pamphlet, at the encouragement of his wife to speak with his brothers because their wives were unhappy, Ron approached Dan in 1982. 

“Ron was embarrassed by me,” Dan told Krakauer. “He was a devout Saint and he said I was an embarrassment to the Mormon Church. He told me, ‘There’s no place in this church for extremes!'” 

Ron was convinced by these beliefs and returned home to Dianna to change their dynamic. She told a friend that he wanted to marry more women, practice polygamy and marry their teenage daughters. Ron later said that he did not belong to any extremist groups and that he never practiced Polygamy. 

Though they were reportedly unhappy, all of Dianna’s sisters-in-law went along with their husbands’ wishes, except for Brenda, Krakauer wrote.  

Dianna split with Ron in 1983 and moved out of state with their six children.  

Ron blamed Brenda for his marriage’s unraveling.  

Claiming to Act on God’s Will, Ron and Dan Lafferty Set Out to Kill Their Sister-in-Law and Niece  

Ron claimed to have received his initial message from God in February 1984. In February 1984, Ron claimed to have received his first message. He said that God had instructed him to speak again. This time, Erica and Brenda were the ones who had been instructed. “become obstacles” in God’s path who must be “removed in rapid succession that an example be made of them.” 

Allen was contacted by Dan about the supposed instructions. Allen stated that he would defend his wife, child and children, but never revealed to his wife that Ron had thoughts about killing their daughter and her, Krakauer claims.  

Ron and Dan embarked on a road trip in May. Together, they traveled across Canada and the U.S. With two men they met in their travels, Dan and Ron set out to their youngest brother’s home on July 24.  

They first arrived at Allen and Brenda’s house at 1:30 p.m., but no one answered.  

“I had a real happy feeling then, because I thought the whole thing had just been a test of faith—like when God tested Abraham [by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac]—and Ron had just passed the test,”Krakauer was informed by Dan that they had not received any response from Dan.  

But Dan also decided to drive back to his brother and sister-in-law’s home minutes after driving away. 

“Maybe I’m going back because I’ll be the one who is supposed to take care of this business for the Lord. I wasn’t sure, but I had a real comfortable feeling about what I was doing,”He spoke of his thoughts at the time.  

Brenda replied. He forced his way in and wrestled Brenda down as he apologized for getting involved in family business. Ron attacked his sister in law as well. One of the brothers outside said that he could hear Brenda plead with Erica.  

Dan murdered his 15-month old niece, Brenda, as Ron beat Brenda. “I closed my eyes, so I didn’t see what I was doing,”He told Krakauer. “I didn’t hear anything…I’m pretty sure she didn’t suffer.” 

He then returned to the kitchen and shot Brenda. “I didn’t actually see anything,”He said so, noting that he also had his eyes closed in that instance.  

They were later arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the deaths of Erica and Brenda. 

The Aftermath of Erica and Brenda Lafferty’s Murders 

Ron and Dan were to be tried together. But Ron tried to kill himself days before the trial. He was revived and remained in a coma for two days.  

Dan’s trial went ahead, and he defended himself. After five days of deliberations, the jury was released. Nine hours later Dan was found guilty of both charges. He was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in state penitentiary after ten of the twelve jurors voted for him to die. 

“In my 12 years as a judge, I have never presided over a trial of such a cruel, heinous pointless and senseless a crime as the murders of Brenda and Erica Lafferty,”Judge J. Robert Bullock made the following remarks at sentencing. “Nor have I seen an accused who had so little remorse or feeling.” 

Ron was also found guilty of the charges against which he was facing and was sentenced death row. He opted to be executed by firing squad when it came time.  

Multiple appeals were filed and his conviction was overturned by the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that he was not competent to stand trial. He was tried again in 1996 and was found guilty.  

Ron participated in the appeals process through his death on Nov. 11, 2019. He died of natural causes, according to the authorities. He was 78.  

Brenda and Erica’s family was relieved that Ron died of natural causes and that they were spared the spectacle that would come with an execution.  

“From the very beginning, we as a family turned that over to the Lord and the law,” Jim Wright, Brenda’s father and Erica’s grandfather, told KUTV at the moment.  

Brenda and Erica are both buried together. Jim said that he visited their gravesite every other week in 2019.  

“They laid Erica on Brenda’s chest like she’s holding her. I do find comfort here,”He said. 

Nearby, his wife LaRae, Brenda’s mother and Erica’s grandmother, is also buried.  

“It’s just a matter of going on in daily life and looking forward to seeing them again,”He spoke of his loved ones.