One of Utah’s most sensational and infamous crimes — the brutal 1984 murders of Brenda Lafferty and her baby daughter by her two brothers-in-law — will be the basis for an upcoming television production.
“Under the Banner of Heaven,” based on Jon Krakauer’s 2003 book, will be a multipart, limited series that will focus on “a devout detective” whose “faith is tested as he investigates a brutal murder that seems to be connected to an esteemed Utah family’s spiral into LDS fundamentalism and their distrust in the government,” according to FX.
On July 24, 1984, 24-year-old Brenda Lafferty and her 15-month-old daughter, Erica, were murdered in their American Fork home. Her brothers-in-law — Ron Lafferty, a self-professed prophet, and Dan Lafferty — beat her, wrapped a vacuum cord around her neck and slit her throat.
Then, Dan slit the throat of their toddler niece.
Brenda Lafferty was married to Ron and Dan’s younger brother, Allen. A devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she disagreed with Ron and Dan’s fundamentalist views and refused to accept that Ron was a prophet.
The murders were believed to have been triggered by Ron Lafferty’s religious views, which led to his excommunication from the LDS Church and prompted his wife to divorce him in early 1984 and move to Florida with their six children. Ron Lafferty blamed the divorce on four people, including Brenda and Erica, “who he believed would grow up to be just as despicable as her mother,” according to court documents.
Ron claimed he received a revelation ordering him to murder his sister-in-law and niece, and he told his lawyer he believed he was convicted of the crime because of a conspiracy between the state, the LDS Church, and “unseen spiritual forces” that included the deceased father of the judge who presided at his trial.
Although he was sentenced to death, Ron Lafferty died of natural causes in Utah State Prison in 2019. Dan Lafferty remains in prison, serving a life sentence.
Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”), who grew up in a LDS home, is adapting the book for the TV production. “Raised in the LDS faith, my hope is that this true-crime thriller might shed light on the horrific brutalities perpetrated in the name of God in our own backyards,” said Black, whose credits include writing and producing “Big Love,” the HBO series about a polygamous family in Utah.
“Dustin Lance Black is a gifted storyteller and the perfect artist to adapt Jon Krakauer’s gripping novel for FX,” said Gina Balian, FX’s president of original programming.
“Under the Banner of Heaven” will be produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Television, and they’ll both serve as executive producers. “We at Imagine have been dedicated to telling this powerful story for nearly a decade,” Grazer and Howard said in a joint statement. “With FX’s belief and support and Lance Black’s relentless commitment we are, at last, on our way.”
David Mackenzie will direct — he’s Scotsman whose directing credits include “Perfect Sense,” which debuted at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. British actress Daisy Edgar-Jones will star as Brenda Lafferty. And Andrew Garfield (“The Amazing Spider-man,” “Hacksaw Ridge”) will star as Pyre, “an LDS elder who is committed to his church and family but begins to question some of the church’s teachings through his contact with a suspected murderer.”
“Under the Banner of Heaven” is currently in pre-production, and no start date was announced. It will stream on FX on Hulu, and no airdate has been announced.