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Is Under The Banner of Heaven based on a true story and what does the title mean?

True crime dramatisation continues to pique public interest and dominate the streaming services of late. Be it details on where Hunter Moore is now (opens in new tab) from Netflix’s Most Hated Man on the Internet to the whereabouts of Warren Jeffs (opens in new tab) the ‘prophet’ in Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey. This is in addition to Starzplay’s latest hit The Girl From Plainville offering a fictionalised retelling about the suicide that shocked America – involving then-teenager Michelle Carter (opens in new tab) (portrayed by Elle Fanning on screen).

The latest offering starring Andrew Garfield, Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sam Worthington, holds just as much intrigue. In Under The Banner of Heaven, detective Jeb Pyre investigates the murder of a Mormon woman and her young baby, uncovering unsettling truths involving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. His sleuthing also reveals the potential violence unleashed by unwavering faith. Here, we delve into the inspiration behind the series, and address the whereabouts of the men behind the crime – Ron and Dan Lafferty.

Is Under The Banner of Heaven based on a true story?
Yes, Under the Banner of Heaven is based on a true story that is documented in the 2003 book of the same name. Under The Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith written by author Jon Krakuaer, documents the real-life murder of Brenda Lafferty in the 1980s.

Raised among Mormons, Krakauer was fascinated by what he deemed to be their religious fundamentalism that consistently went unchallenged. Hearing of the events involving those in his book, he was inspired to document them and bring the fanaticism behind the crime to a wider audience. The book covers the origin of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) – The Mormon Church – and a murder committed by members of the church in 1984. According to Cosmopolitan (opens in new tab), Lafferty brothers Ron and Dan were members of a group called the School of Prophets. They had been excommunicated from the LDS because of their extremist religious views. Around the same time, Ron’s wife left him – Ron and Dan blamed their youngest brother Allen’s wife Brenda, for criticising their religious views and encouraging Ron’s wife to leave.

When members of the School of Prophets, Ron claimed he was receiving messages from God about removing certain people from society. He went on to specifically claim the messages were about Brenda – he suggested God was commanding him to perform ritual murders of Brenda and her baby, and two others named Chloe Low and Richard Stowe. Low and Stowe evaded being murdered as the brothers were caught prior to being able to carry them out. On sharing the revelations with the other Church members, they renounced the idea of murder and the brothers quit the church.

The brothers brually murdered Brenda Lafferty and baby Erica, who was 15-months-old. On July 24, 1984, Brenda Lafferty was found on the floor at her home with her throat slit – she had been strangled with a vacuum cord beforehand. Erica was found in her cot having suffered an identical fate. Lafferty and Lafferty were suspected of the murders following their reveal about receiving messages from God. Solid evidence then came in the form of a note detailing their plan, and a trial ensued.

Where are Ron and Dan Lafferty now?
Dan Lafferty is still alive, serving a double life sentence in Utah’s state prison. Ron Lafferty died in prison of natural causes in 2019. Dan Lafferty’s trial took place in January 1985, and he initially took responsibility for both murders. Representing himself in court, he was found guilty of a double first-degree murder charge among other crimes, and given 2 life sentences. Prior to Ron Lafferty’s 1985 hearing, he attempted to take his own life in prison. When released from hospital after the failed attempt, he stood trial and was sentenced to death. He chose to be executed by firing squad, but this was eventually overturned and he spent 20 years on death row before dying from natural causes.

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