Is under the banner of heaven based on a true story?

The harrowing true story behind Under the Banner of Heaven

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After two years of waiting the true crime drama Under the Banner of Heaven has finally arrived on ITVX following its debut on Disney Plus. And from the opening credits the series, starring Andrew Garfield and Daisy Edgar Jones, reveals one thing: it’s based on the true story of Brenda Lafferty and her young daughter Erica.

So, in case you’re wondering how closely the show follows the harrowing true story behind Brenda and Erica’s deaths, here’s everything you need to know about the real-life events Under the Banner of Heaven was based on:

So, is Under the Banner of Heaven based on a true story?

Under the Banner of Heaven true story

Credit: ITV

(*spoilers ahead*)

As we see in the Under the Banner of Heaven series, Brenda was 24-years-old when she and her 15-month-old daughter Erica were murdered in their home in Utah. Her husband, Allen, was at work when the killings took place.

Brenda and Erica’s murders were then written about in a book called Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer, which the series is based on. Brenda was stabbed and strangled to death and was found by Allen when he got home for the day. Their daughter had also been stabbed and left in her crib.

Allen’s brothers, Ron and Dan, – who were Mormon fundamentalists but had been excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints due to their radical views – had carried out the shocking murders as Ron claimed he’d been sent a revelation from God saying Brenda and Erica should be “removed”.

Under the Banner of Heaven true story

Credit: ITV

Ron and Dan believed in polygamy (having more than one wife), which is illegal in the US. Allen had originally been interested in joining Ron and Dan’s breakaway Mormon group but Brenda dissuaded him because she didn’t like the idea of polygamy and thought Allen’s brother’s views (they wouldn’t allow their wives to drive or handle money) were troubling.

The brother’s wives, Dianna and Matilda, had also confided in Brenda about their concerns about their marriages to Ron and Dan. Eventually, Dianna even left Ron and moved to Florida with their six children, which Ron entirely blamed Brenda for. According to court documents, Ron said he believed Erica would grow up to be “just as despicable” as Brenda.

Under the Banner of Heaven true story

Credit: ITV

After Ron and Dan had killed Brenda and Erica, they fled to Nevada and were arrested a month later in a casino in Reno. Ron was found guilty of both murders and given the death sentence but the conviction was overturned six years later due to “legal errors” surrounding his mental capacity.

When Ron was charged with Brenda and Erica’s murders again in 1992 the court found he was “mentally unfit” to go to trial. He was sent to Utah State Hospital, found unfit to stand trial in 1994 after a hearing and sentenced to death again in 1996. Ron chose to be killed by firing squad rather than lethal injection but instead died naturally in 2019 aged 78.

Meanwhile, Dan – who is now in his 70s – is still serving a life sentence in Utah State Prison. Dan claimed he’d killed Brenda and Erica but one of Ron’s friends testified Ron had confessed he killed Brenda but thanked Dan for murdering Erica. According to the friend, Ron had said: “I can’t believe I killed her. Thank you, brother, for doing the baby because I don’t think I had it in me.”

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Featured image credit via ITV