The Disturbing True Story Behind Under the Banner of Heaven


Ron and Dan Lafferty Go Off the Rails

After Dianna left, Ron immersed himself entirely in fundamentalist doctrine, and in February 1984, he received what he insisted was his first message from God. And then in late March, another revelation he claimed to receive told him, per his handwritten notes, that several people, including Brenda and Erica, had “become obstacles in My path” and they must be “removed in rapid succession that an example be made of them.”

Dan asked Allen what he thought of the so-called revelation, and the younger brother said he’d defend his wife and child at all costs. But, according to Krakauer, Allen never told Brenda that Ron was seriously considering killing her and their baby.

“If he had told Brenda about Ron’s revelation, she would have been out of there in a minute and she’d still be alive today,” Betty said. “But Brenda didn’t know anything about it.”

No longer tethered to the church they’d belonged to all their lives—”For the first time I was able to get high with a clear conscience,” Dan remembered to Krakauer—Ron and Dan took off on a road trip around the western U.S. and Canada that May, mostly together, but splitting up at times.

Dan met Ricky Knapp doing construction in Wichita, Ks., then Ron joined them and they drove to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where Dan met his soon-to-be third wife, Laurene Grant. While Dan was tooling around with his new bride and two of her four children, Ron, Ricky and Laurene’s two other kids met Chip Carnes near Sacramento, Calif.

Laurene wanted a divorce after a week, so Dan took the opportunity to visit his second wife, Ann Randak, and then his first wife, Matilda, and their children.

The four men reunited at the Provo, Utah, home of Dan and Ron’s mother Claudine Lafferty, where on July 23, 1984, they were talking about driving to Salt Lake City on the 24th to watch the Pioneer Day parade. Instead, at some point Ron got it into his head that the 24th would be “‘The Day,'” as Dan remembered it to Krakauer.

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