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The harrowing true story behind new drama Under the Banner of Heaven

Spoilers for the series ahead!

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Nicky Morris
Nicky MorrisTV and film writer
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Daisy Edgar-Jones and Andrew Garfield star in new true-crime series, Under the Banner of Heaven, which has finally landed on Disney+ for UK fans to enjoy this week. But did you know about the shocking real-life double murder that inspired the drama? 

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The series is an adaptation of the 2003 true-crime novel by Jon Krakauer, which tells the story of the 1984 Lafferty murders when 24-year-old Brenda Lafferty and her infant child were killed by two of her husband's brothers, Dan and Ron Lafferty. The show sees Andrew play the role of Detective Pyre, a fictional character who sets out to uncover the truth of Brenda's murder and Mormonism's role in her death. 

WATCH: Under the Banner of Heaven is now available to watch on Disney+

What happened to Brenda Lafferty? 

On July 24, 1984, Brenda was found by her husband, Allen, lying dead on the floor with her throat slashed, having been strangled with a vacuum cleaner cord. Her 15-month-old daughter, Erica, had also suffered similar fatal injuries and died in her crib. 

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After a police investigation, it was revealed that Allen's elder brothers, Ron and Dan Lafferty, had broken into his apartment in American Fork, Utah, and murdered his wife and child. During their trial, it was revealed that Ron had killed Brenda while Dan had murdered Erica and that the brothers were influenced by their extremist views towards fundamentalist Mormonism. 

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Andrew Garfield stars in the series

Both brothers were found guilty. Dan was sentenced to two life sentences to be served concurrently without the possibility of parole. Ron was due to stand trial with Dan but after attempting suicide, his trial was delayed. He was later found competent to stand trial and was convicted and sentenced to death. Despite several appeals, the penalty was upheld. Ron died in 2019 of natural causes before his execution. 

Why did Ron and Dan Lafferty kill Brenda?

Ron, a self-proclaimed prophet, claimed to have been moved by a divine revelation and was instructed by God to "remove" Brenda and her baby. 

ron lafferty© Photo: Getty Images

Ron Lafferty was sentenced to death for his crime

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In the 1940s, the brothers were born into the Mormon faith, but as they grew older, developed issues with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Dan came to believe that the Mormon church had made a mistake by abandoning polygamy almost a century earlier. Ron eventually adapted his brother's thinking and the pair joined a polygamist cult called the School of Prophets.

Ron's movement into more extremist views led his wife to divorce him and move with their children to Florida. Brenda, who was opposed to polygamy and supported the decision by Ron's wife to divorce him, was blamed for this.

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