A convicted murderer serving out a life sentence for killing two people says that he influenced Benjamin and Kristi Strack to kill their children and themselves.
Dan Lafferty, 66, and his brother Ron were convicted in the 1984 slayings of their sister-in-law, Brenda Lafferty, and her 15-month old daughter. In an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, Dan, who believes himself to be the prophet Elijah, claimed that he and Kristi fell in love and that it was his philosophy that led to the family’s deaths.
Dan and Ron were members of a radical polygamous group. Brenda was married to Allen, the youngest Lafferty brother. She was targeted by the older brothers because they believed she influenced Ron’s wife to leave him after refusing to let him take on another wife. The brothers said God told them to kill Brenda and her baby girl.
Though Dan claimed responsibility for both of the deaths, Ron is currently on death row as he was convicted of killing Brenda and orchestrating the murder plot.
The gruesome tale was the subject of the 2003 book Under the Banner of Heaven, a book Dan now says Kristi Strack was obsessed with.
According to Dan, Kristi had a dream about him while reading the book 10 years ago and eventually reached out to him. The Stracks became close friends with Dan, visiting him in Utah State Prison on an almost weekly basis.
“He’s very fond of them,” Springville police Cpl. Greg Turnbow told the Salt Lake Tribune. “He wanted his remains to go to them.”
Dan claims Kristi’s husband Benjamin knew Dan and Kristi were in love and didn’t mind. Dan says he cut off his waist-length hair at her request and sent it to the family.
But the Stracks’s relationship with Dan came to an abrupt halt in 2008, when the couple pleaded guilty to criminal charges including forgery and drug possession, effectively ending their visitation privileges.
Kristi and Dan exchanged letters for a while afterwards, but the correspondence stopped when Kristi said she didn’t believe Dan was the prophet Elijah.
Dan told the AP that he hadn’t spoken to the Stracks in years, but said that he believes it was his “hell-on-earth philosophy” that led to the murder-suicides.
“My insanity messes with people’s lives,” Lafferty said. “It’s just the way it is.”
He added: “I’ll miss them, but I’m happy for them. I believe they’re in paradise now.”
Police were initially baffled when the Utah family of five was found dead last September.
The parents were found with cups of red liquid next to their bodies, while the children – Benson, 14, Emery, 12, and Zion, 11 – were discovered lying on and around the bed, covered with blankets up to their necks, with empty bottles of liquid methadone and boxes of cold and flu medication nearby.
Police concluded Tuesday that Benjamin and Kristi murdered their two youngest children and possibly killed a third with a combination of drugs including methadone.