Prophets, polygamy and punishment: Killer's daughter speaks out
05/26/2016 5:26 pm PDT
UPDATE November 11, 2019:
May 26, 2016:
A convicted killer claims he inspired a family massacre from behind bars. In an exclusive interview, his daughter talks to Crime Watch Daily.
What was it like being raised by a murdering messiah? And how did his daughter manage to get away with her life when others weren't so lucky?
Rebecca Lafferty grew up in a strict Mormon household near Provo, Utah with her mom, dad and two older half-sisters.
From a young age she followed the prophet's teachings, whether the prophet was in church or at home.
Rebecca loved her chiropractor father, Dan, but also was afraid of his dictatorial ways.
"I loved him because he was my father, but I also feared him, and then at some point I just didn't trust him," said Rebecca.
Over time, Dan Lafferty would become more iron-fisted, especially with Rebecca's two older sisters from her mom's previous marriage.
Then, Rebecca says, things escalated. One night Rebecca's mom walked in on her 14-year-old daughter sitting on Dan's lap. Allegedly Dan was touching her bare breasts.
"My father said he would never let it happen again and even walked around with a pebble in his shoe as a reminder to try not to think about wanting to touch her," said Rebecca.
But the pebble was no cure.
"My sister came to my mom and said it's happening again, and it was becoming more than just fondling," said Rebecca. "He wanted to have sex with her."
Rebecca says Dan became more radicalized. He wanted to practice polygamy and take his 14-year-old stepdaughter as his second wife. Neither Rebecca's mom nor the Mormon Church would stand for that.
The Mormon Church excommunicated him. Rebecca's mom soon would too.
Dan Lafferty took his worship elsewhere. With his five brothers, including older brother Ron and younger brother Allen, they started the School of Prophets, a fundamentalist splinter group.
"The school of prophets was a cult," said Rebecca. "I remember them bringing in a pulpit and speaking in our home. It was very hush-hush, and just weird."
Proclaiming themselves prophets, Ron and Dan made polygamy one of their main tenets. But their legal wives -- Rebecca's mom and Ron's wife Diana -- were both against the practice. So was Allen's wife Brenda, an outspoken college-educated former beauty queen who became a confidante to the other women.
"Come to find out she was visiting all the wives, one in particular, Diana, my uncle Ron's wife, saying to her: 'There are options. You have choices,'" said Rebecca.
Not long after, Diana bravely left her husband Ron. Rebecca's mom was next, packing up the kids and leaving Dan.
Then a year later, the unimaginable: Ron Lafferty receives a revelation.
"My uncle Ron had the prophesy, and he wrote it down, and that was to eliminate Brenda, her baby and another list of people that helped Diana leave him," said Rebecca.
The "removal revelation" was heard. The Lafferty brothers were about to sentence Brenda and her baby Erica to eternal damnation. Rebecca was just 7 years old.
Ron and Dan Lafferty were arrested at Circus Circus casino in Reno, Nevada. The brothers represented themselves at trial. Dan was found guilty and sentenced to life. Ron was convicted and sentenced to the death penalty.
Then on appeal Ron was found incompetent and sent to a state hospital for treatment. Three years later, Ron Lafferty's competency was restored, and after a three-week trial he was found guilty of capital murder.
Reportedly, former LDS President Gordon Hinckley said the Lafferty brothers "have no connection to us whatsoever. They don't belong to the church. There actually are no Mormon fundamentalists."
With Rebecca's dad sitting in a Utah prison and not the coveted celestial kingdom, like a serpent, his patriarchal powers may have struck again.
"They all took poison," said Rebecca.
Self-proclaimed Mormon prophets, brothers Dan and Ron Lafferty got a revelation from God: To kill their younger brother's wife Brenda and her 15-month-old daughter Erica. The murders were barbaric.
Dan Lafferty got life in prison. Ron Lafferty got the death penalty.
Dan's daughter Rebecca was 7 years old at the time of the murders.
Learning what her father did and who her father was hit Rebecca like a revelation of her own.
"I realized that he's capable of anything," said Rebecca. "He could have killed me, he could have killed all of us. He doesn't have any feelings."
Time went by then from behind bars, a new Utah family is baptized by Dan Lafferty.
Kristi Strack and Dan became friends and wrote each other for years. One day Kristi reached out to Rebecca.
"She was in a very dark place and she was asking me if I believed this life is worth living," said Rebecca.
Kristi also confessed to Rebecca.
"She was in love with my father," said Rebecca.
Reportedly, the Stracks suffered from drug addiction, mental illness and feared the impending apocalypse.
"I know in previous conversations there was talk about suicide, and I know my dad said 'If that's something that you feel like you need to do, then that's something that you need to do,'" said Rebecca. "He supported her suicide
Then a tragic call to 911 would reveal a tragedy far deeper than only Kristi's own suicide.
Kristi Strack and her husband Benajmin were found on their bed with three of their children lying on the floor near them surrounded by cups of a lethal cocktail of drugs.
"They all took poison," said Rebecca.
Dan Lafferty told the Associated Press that although he hadn't talked to the Strack family in years, he believes his "Hell on Earth" philosophy led to the murder-suicides.
Over the years, Rebecca has visited her dad in prison often, but has recently decided to stop going.
"I just don't have the desire to go see him anymore," said Rebecca. "He's a manipulator and I'm just done."
Rebecca says she has forgiven her father and she loves him, but has spent her life trying to not let his actions define her.
Talking about it now, though, is healing.
"I was so shut down in so many ways just to survive, it's just been survival for me now," said Rebecca. "I can choose to not be my past but I can acknowledge myself for what I am and what I've come through. And if my story can help at least one person then I will know this wasn't for nothing."
Rebecca left the church at age 14. She's currently writing a book about her experience of growing up the daughter of an infamous killer.
As for the Strack family, they did not leave a suicide note behind -- only unanswered questions.
From behind bars, Dan Lafferty told the Salt Lake Tribune: "I'll miss them, but I'm happy for them. I believe they're in paradise now."
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