If you want to see what an Observer writer looks like--brainy with a touch of rugged, in my estimation, or the perfect mixture of jock and intellectual--Jesse Hyde will appear tonight on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360� talking about a piece he wrote for the Deseret Morning News in July 2004, a little more than a year before he joined our staff. It was about Ron and Dan Lafferty, two brothers who went crazy, became polygamists and then killed their sister-in-law and her 15-month-old daughter, because they believed that's what God wanted them to do. Jon Krakauer, who wrote about the brothers in his bestseller Under the Banner of Heaven, must have been busy. Or just not as handsome. Since the Utah paper doesn't archive stories more than 6 months old, here's a brief excerpt from that piece.
"Today, Dan Lafferty spends his days in the maximum security wing of the Utah State Prison. His skin is pale, almost translucent, which is to be expected of a man who has spent the past 19 years in prison. Small pink bags sag beneath his sunken eyes.
He recalls the murders of his sister-in-law and niece as if he were a surgeon recounting a routine medical procedure. He claims responsibility for both murders, although Ron, who is on death row, was convicted of killing Brenda and sentenced to die for devising the murder plot.
'It's never haunted me, it's never bothered me,' Dan says, legs crossed, hands clasped in his lap. 'I don't blame anyone for not understanding it. But if you had done it, it wouldn't haunt you either. It was a strange phenomenon.'
Dan said he and his brother were led by God to beat Brenda unconscious, wrap a vacuum cord around her neck until she went limp, and then slit her throat. She was 24.
'I held Brenda's hair and did it pretty much the way they did it in the scriptures,' he says proudly. 'Then I walked in Erica's room. I talked to her for a minute, I said, "I'm not sure why I'm supposed to do this, but I guess God wants you home."'
He then looked away as he slit the 15-month-old baby's throat.
'I like to think she didn't suffer,' he says. 'It probably should draw more sympathy than it does. But I don't let it.'"
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There have been no new developments in the story since Jesse wrote the piece--most recently, in March, Ron said he was trying to get the Utah Supreme Court to overturn his death sentence--but, apparently, Cooper has a thing for stories about polygamists. Who doesn't? Anderson Cooper 360� airs tonight from 9-11 p.m. locally. --Robert Wilonsky