What Happened To Ron And Dan Lafferty After They Went To Prison?

"She stood up to the Lafferty brothers. She fought back, and Ron resented this. And so, coincidental or not — I don't think so — he had a revelation: God told him that Brenda needed to be removed along with her infant daughter," author Jon Krakauer ("Into the Wild") shared with Caroline Ballard in a 2019 interview about the heinous murders carried out by the Dan and Ron Lafferty (above) in 1984 (via KUER Radio). Krakauer's book "Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith" (2003) unpacks the harrowing day when the two brothers viciously slew their sister-in-law Brenda and her 15-month-old daughter, Erica, in a sordid gesture that they believed would appease God.

Krakauer's book is one of just a few retellings of what happened 38 years ago on that awful morning of bloodshed and unthinkable malice. According to Deadline, Hulu is scheduled to release a limited series starring Andrew Garfield and Daisy Edgar-Jones on April 28 of this year. It's stories such as these that haunt one's psyche and speak volumes about the dark underbelly of the human condition, and nearly 40 years later, it reminds us of what people are capable of when they become enraptured by compulsion and a cold disconnect from reality. 

Why they killed

As a vehement proponent of a fundamentalist approach to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ron Lafferty exhibited dispositions for spiritual extremism throughout his life. Both he and his brother Dan were active members of the Utah-based religion, but they were excommunicated after Ron started insisting that he was a prophet who received orders from God himself. They joined up with the School of Prophets shortly thereafter, a polygamist cult that was more aligned with their radical persuasions. However, disapproval from Ron's wife and her reluctance to accept his increasingly problematic lifestyle prompted her to file for divorce in early 1984, and she moved to Florida with their six children in an effort to distance them from Ron's troubling influence (per The Salt Lake Tribune).

Ron Lafferty blamed the divorce on four people, including Brenda and Erica Lafferty — he believed the little girl would "grow up to be just as despicable as her mother." The wife of their younger brother, Allen, Brenda suggested that Ron and Dan were unstable and barred Allen from joining the School of Prophets. This only accelerated Ron's resentment, and after a perceived revelation from a higher being, he determined that Brenda, Erica, and two other individuals whom he deemed "impure" needed to be removed "in rapid succession" (via The Salt Lake Tribune).

The murders of Brenda and Erica Lafferty

After his alleged revelation, Ron Lafferty confided in several church members, including his younger brother Dan, who agreed to assist in the murders. Despite blatant signs of malicious intent, the other members of the School of Prophets never reported what they knew to police, and their refusal to participate in the bloodshed prompted Ron and Dan to desert the religious faction entirely. Later on, Ron would tell his lawyer that it was a conspiracy involving the state, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and "unseen spiritual forces" — including the deceased father of the judge who delivered his sentence — that prompted him to take the lives of his sister-in-law and infant niece (per The Salt Lake Tribune). 

On the morning of July 24, 1984, Ron and Dan Lafferty entered Brenda Lafferty's apartment. Ron proceeded to strangle Brenda with a vacuum cord and cut her throat. Dan likewise cut the throat of Erica and the two left the residence (per The Salt Lake Tribune), fleeing in a getaway car driven by their friend Chip Carnes. Carnes, who was waiting outside, later reported hearing Brenda scream, "Don't hurt my baby! Please don't hurt my baby!" at his conviction trial in 2001. Allen Lafferty returned home shortly after to find Brenda sprawled on the kitchen floor in a pool of her own blood and Erica positioned at the base of her crib with her throat slit (via Daily Mail U.K.).

Arrest and trial of Dan and Ron Lafferty

True Crime Daily reports that, shortly after fleeing the scene of the murder, Ron and Dan Lafferty were apprehended by authorities at the Circus Circus casino in Reno, Nevada. Their trials commenced in 1985, and despite multiple pleas from his attorneys, Ron Lafferty was deemed mentally competent enough to stand before a jury and was delivered the death penalty following his conviction. Dan Lafferty was sentenced to life in prison for his participation in the crimes (per The Salt Lake Tribune). 

The only thing standing between Dan Lafferty and the death penalty was one juror who voted in the negative, a redeeming feat he managed to achieve with "looks and flirtation," as The Daily Herald reports. His brother, on the other hand, wasn't so lucky. Despite a series of court mishaps, several appeals, another two full trials and all of their subsequent appeals — all the way to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals — he was given the death penalty. Gordon Hinckley, former head of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, publicly stated that the Lafferty brothers "have no connection to us whatsoever. They don't belong to the church. There actually are no Mormon fundamentalists" (via True Crime Daily).

Where is Dan Lafferty today?

Dan Lafferty is currently serving a life sentence at Draper prison in Draper, Utah. "I realized that he's capable of anything," said Rebecca Lafferty, Dan's daughter, who was only 7 years old when her father murdered her aunt and cousin. "He could have killed me, he could have killed all of us. He doesn't have any feelings." Rebecca, following her father's conviction, did her best to maintain a correspondence with him despite his horrific crimes, but the relationship understandably became cumbersome and more than she could bear. "I just don't have the desire to go see him anymore," she continued. "He's a manipulator and I'm just done" (per True Crime Daily).

For a time, Dan Lafferty kept in touch with one Kristi Strack from behind bars. Strack, who reportedly experienced pressing thoughts of suicide throughout her life, found little consolation in the words of her "friend." According to Rebecca (Strack confided in her at times), Dan nurtured her suicidal impulses and suggested that it might be her only option (via True Crime Daily). On September 27, 2015, Stack was discovered dead in her home alongside the bodies of her husband and their three children, all of whom had ingested a lethal concoction of drugs. The tragedy was deemed a murder-suicide by police (per The Salt Lake Tribune).  

Ron Lafferty died in prison

In 2019, after 34 years of incarceration, Ron Lafferty died of natural causes at Draper prison. Despite his extensive stay on death row, his execution date was never ascertained before he passed away, though the Utah attorney general's office claimed that the decision could have been mere "months" away. He reportedly requested a firing squad as his means of execution, which the state of Utah denied him. Therese Michelle Day, one of Lafferty's attorneys, asserted after his death that his overall condition was neglected during his stay at Draper and he, "like other mentally ill prisoners, was not treated for his mental illness as he should have been" (via The Salt Lake Tribune).

"There's been a lot of people whose lives were just severely traumatized by the Lafferty brothers. Does Ron's death in any way make up for that? No. Might it provide some sense of peace or something approaching closure for the families of the victims? I hope so," Jon Krakauer shared following Ron Lafferty's passing (per KUER).