Randy Johnson was the chief of police responsible for the murder investigation of Brenda and Erica Lafferty in 1984, in American Fork, Utah. “I cannot recognize any actual person that I knew or came to know, accurately depicted in the series. The series does not reflect the actual investigation that I oversaw. Nor does it reflect the attitudes, behaviors and conduct of me or any of my officers. It is clearly a work of fiction as indicated by the disclaimer. I affirm that to my knowledge neither I nor any of my officers ever lost our personal faith.”
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Randy Johnson Interview – transcript
ron, dan, officers, lafferty, brenda, investigation, suspects, erica, homicides, revelation, utah county, crime scene, family, karns, utah, scene, killed, county attorney, murders, interview
Randy Johnson, Craig Foster
Craig Foster 00:00
We are interviewing Randy Johnson, who’s the former American for Chief of Police. And my name is Craig Foster. And I’m going to be asking some questions and visiting with you. And so we’ll just get right into it sounds good. The first question that I have is, are you a Utah native and where were you born and raised?
Randy Johnson 00:24
I was born in Franklin, Idaho in 1950. My dad was an Air Force officer. We consider Utah home. We’d come back every summer. But I traveled and lived all around the world with my father. I’ve been a Utah native, since 1968. When I came back to go to BYU, served a mission then came back and I’ve been here since then.
Craig Foster 00:46
Okay, good. And perhaps you could give a brief overview of your law enforcement career: what you went through and your experience. So with that —
Randy Johnson 00:58
I’ll go right into a little bit more personally, and then I’ll touch on my law enforcement career.
Craig Foster 01:04
Randy Johnson 01:06
I was the chief of police responsible for the murder investigation of Brenda and Erica Lafferty in 1984, in American Fork, Utah. It occurred on July the 24th 1984. I was born to parents who are and were active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I served a mission to Guatemala and El Salvador, I returned to BYU and subsequently I earned my Bachelor and Master’s Degree from Brigham Young University. While certainly flawed, over the course of my lifetime, I’ve tried to become a better member of the church and a better follower of Jesus Christ. I’m obviously a member of the church. I’ve been sealed in the temple. I’m currently married to my wife, who happens to be named Brenda. We have 27 children grand- and great-grandchildren. I’ve held a wide variety of stake and Ward callings. I’m currently the gospel doctrine and instructor in my ward. I’ve been asked by Sharon Wright Weeks — she’s Brenda sister and family spokesperson — to present a true account of the investigation of the deaths of her sister niece. And to talk about the efforts that we went to to bring to justice those persons who are responsible for those horrible murders. I’m making this effort to support the Wright family by presenting an accurate account to the organization that I understand is called Faithful Answers, Informed Response (FAIR) organization. I’m pleased to do so. This will be an overview of the investigation. There was approximately 1500 to 2000 investigative man hours put into this case over a couple of years. There are details germane to the investigation that I won’t be able to cover due to time constraints. Sharon is most knowledgeable about the Lafferty family and the relationship that Brenda had with the brothers and the family. And so she would be the person that would address the personal matters of the family. I’m mostly going to focus on the actual investigation. I have read the book Under the Banner of Heaven a number of years ago when it came out. I was mentioned in it by name. And I found that contained more accurate information then does the current mini series that’s operating under the same name that’s on cable right now. Unfortunately, with Under the Banner of Heaven, they include a lot of fundamental Mormon stuff, church groups, and so that kind of confused the Lafferty homicide investigation, but I have read the book and find it to be substantially more accurate than the mini series that is currently out there. I find it interesting that the disclaimer on the mini series says, “This program is inspired by true crime events. Some characters in the program are fictional, and some scenes and dialogues are invented for creative and storyline purposes.” Based upon my knowledge of the case, the parties involved — the officers under my command and myself — I cannot recognize any actual person that I knew or came to know, accurately depicted in the series. The series does not reflect the actual investigation that I oversaw. Nor does it reflect the attitudes, behaviors and conduct of me or any of my officers. It is clearly a work of fiction as indicated by the disclaimer. I affirm that to my knowledge neither I nor any of my officers ever lost our personal faith. If a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, well, we did not question our beliefs or leaders as a result of the investigation. Nothing changed there. No church leader ever tried to influence us in any way during or after the investigation. I’m prepared to tell you a little bit about my background to becoming a police officer. Prior to my appointment with American Fork Police Department, I served as an officer and detective at Brigham Young University Police Department for four years followed by seven years with the Provo City Police Department. There I had a wide variety of specialized assignments to include patrol, SWAT, narcotics and vice investigation, and patrol supervision. With my service at BYU and Provo, I had been assigned to investigative teams responsible for a goodly number of felony investigations to include homicides. I left Provo Police Department to accept the Assistant Chief of Police position at American Fork. As such, I held the rank of lieutenant and was the primary police investigator for the city, during the course of the time I was here. At the time of the homicides, I’d been married to my first wife who had been a police sergeant at Brigham Young University Police Department. She resigned from BYU as we had three young daughters. Coincidentally, my youngest daughter and Erica, were the exact same number of months old and looked a lot alike. She continued to work as a part time officer for Alpine Highland police department and American Fork Police Department after she quit at BYU. This was the second homicide investigation that I was responsible for. Before the Lafferty — well, the Lafferty brothers were the second homicide investigation. The first one occurred in March 1982. There was a store clerk who was shot and killed during a robbery. We had no suspects. But the aggressive investigation have resulted in us shortly identifying and arresting and prosecuting the two suspects. I learned a lot from that investigation that I’m going to use in the investigation of the Lafferty brothers. Since my arrival in American Fork, all investigations were my responsibility and I felt the weight of that responsibility keenly, none more so than when someone was hurt or missing. The murder of Brenda and Erica raised that sense of duty to innocent victims to a new level. The store clerk’s death had been a wake up call to me and taught me a lot about the value of pressing hard in the initial hours after the serious crime occurs, and we did press hard. I’ll get into that. Upon the passing of the former chief of police in 1982, I was appointed Chief of Police for the city. In 1984, American Fork Police Department had about 13 full time officers and a part time officer. We were serving a population of about 14,000 people. During the time of the investigation, my assistant chief John Durrant, was attending the Quantico, Virginia, the FBI National Academy, and so he was my lead investigator. But he was not available to me throughout the course of the investigation. That left me with two detectives, a patrol lieutenant, a patrol sergeant, a patrol Corporal, five officers and one part time officer to respond to the scene that night. You ready to start into the investigation?
Craig Foster 08:40
Randy Johnson 08:40
Okay. July 24 1984. It’s Tuesday. It’s pioneer day. It’s a state holiday. Brenda, her husband Allen and 15 month old daughter Erica lived in a duplex in the south side of American Fork. Allen had been at work all day on a tiling job as I recollect up in the Ogden area. The last time Brenda was seen alive by the neighbors was at 12:05 in the afternoon. At approximately three o’clock in the afternoon, the neighbors who lived in the duplex to the left side– they heard a commotion, banging, thumping, loud voices. But they thought there was a TV turned on too loud or that maybe Alan and Brenda were arguing. At 7:45 came in the first report of the crime. Alan Lafferty arrived home, walked into the house and observed his wife and his daughter and they were both deceased. He tried to use one phone but the phone had been cut. He went into the bedroom and made a phone call to the police department. The dispatch center located the sheriff’s department, immediately dispatched an officer who arrived at about 7:50 – first officer on the scene. He had been told what was in there, he went in real quick to make sure that what he’d been told was accurate and the suspects were not there. And then he came back out and had dispatch notify me at home. I’d just come home from a mile, many miles run because I was preparing for a marathon. And the dispatcher said, I had a crime scene with two dead bodies. I said, Okay. And I gave her a list of three or four officers that I wanted to respond to the scene initially to meet me there. And then I remember thinking myself as I’m driving to the scene, it’s got to be a murder suicide. Because mostly what happens when people die — a lot of times, it’s a murder suicide. I thought, That’s okay. I could not conceive of a double homicide in American Fork, especially to a mother and a baby. American Fork seemed so safe to me. Upon my arrival, the first officer told me that a woman and child were in fact dead. He told me that the husband Alan Lafferty had arrived home, found his wife did and that he was waiting at the neighbor’s house next door. Approximately 10 minutes after eight I did an initial walkthrough of the scene with the first officer. I had him walk me through the crime scene. It was obvious it had been a brutal murder of two innocent people. I left the initial officer guarding the residence and met with the officers that I had requested to come to the scene– they had started to arrive. I told him that what we had observed in the residence and made initial assignments. I assigned detective Gary Caldwell, who was one of my detectives, to take the lead on this investigation and be the primary focus that I would focus through to direct the investigation. I had dispatch contact the remaining officers on my department — all of them — and asked them to respond for assignments to the scene. At approximately 8:30 — All the times I’m gonna give you I’m not gonna say approximately. So about a half an hour after we arrived, I instructed detective Caldwell and one other officer to take Alan Lafferty to the station, take a statement and interview him for possible leads. I told Caldwell that as of that minute, Alan was the primary suspect as so many family homicides are committed by a family member. And at nine o’clock approximately, approximately we initiated the crime scene processing. To begin the initial documentation of the scene, I had detective Merrill Finlayson, who was our department crime scene photographer, a second full time officer and a part time female officer stay there and help me. The other officers were assigned to canvass the neighborhood, talk to the neighbors and see what they could develop in the surrounding neighborhood. I had dispatch request the state medical examiner’s on-call investigator, the Office of the State Medical Examiner. I then called Nowell Wooden, who was the county attorney and briefed him on what we knew to that point. He said I will send my chief deputy Wayne Watson who would subsequently be the primary prosecutor for Ron and Dan Lafferty. He was sent to the scene to serve as my legal adviser. I called Provo City Police Wayne Nielsen and requested that he sent a couple of investigators with their recently acquired VCR camera. It was this big this big and arrested on their shoulder, but it was the only one that law enforcement had in Utah County at the time. Sergeant George Pierpont and Officer Keith Tischer responded. I’d like to give you a little brief description of the crime scene — what it looked like from my initial walkthrough. I identified three primary areas of processing: the living room in the area of the front door, the front door open into the living room against a wall, and then you had a standard living room, which was adjacent to the kitchen with kitchen facilities and a table. There appeared to have been a very violent struggle take place behind the front door. There was blood on the back of the door, on the door handles, on the linoleum, on the walls, and there was splatterings up on the ceiling, the white ceiling. It appeared that somebody had been beaten or assaulted violently while seated on the floor with their back to the wall behind the door. Visible on the wall, at about head height if you were seated, there was a swath of blood going back and forth as though somebody’s bloody hair was being knocked back and forth in this arc. There were blood spatters on the back of the door, and as I indicated, even up on the ceiling, one of what would turn out to be Brenda’s fingernails was sitting right there within reaching distance of where Brenda had been. In the kitchen, the second area, Brenda was lying on her back. She was wearing a one-piece bathing suit with a pair of shorts. Her head was lying in a large pool of blood that nearly surrounded her body. Her throat had been cut from ear to ear. She had severe bruising on her face and arms. She was badly beaten. She had an electrical cord had been cut from a vacuum cleaner rapped two or three times around her neck, and it was still wrapped around there. In the blood pool around the body, we observed a second fingernail. The drapes covering the back door lit off from the kitchen. They were kind of torn down a little bit, and they had blood smears all over the white drapes. We drew the conclusion that the two fingernails were torn off or torn off as Brenda fought for her life and the life of her baby, in the area of the front door and in the kitchen. The third area of primary processing was Erica’s bedroom, you walk back down the hall. Eric’s bedroom. Ron and Dan’s — correction sorry, Brenda and Alan’s master bedroom. In Erica’s bedroom as you walk in the door was this way and the crib was right there against the wall. And that crib was the exact color of the crib that I just left my 15 month old daughter, Taryn, when I responded to come down here. I looked over the edge of the crib. And Erica was slumped down as though she had been standing on the edge of the crib, and, and crying. And she just kind of collapsed down. She had the same length of hair, the same color of hair. She was wearing just a diaper. And as far as I could tell, that was my daughter that was down in that bed I couldn’t tell the difference, nor would I be able to tell for another couple three hours before we could deal with that particular area. Her body was crumpled as I said, Her throat, just like her mother’s, was cut from ear to ear. She had no other visible wounds or bruising. At 10 o’clock PM, we had identification of probable suspects. So that’s two hours after our arrival, we’ve got good information. I received a call from detective Caldwell at the station. He informed me that Alan was the brother of Dan Lafferty who had previously ran for sheriff, lot of notoriety, constitutionalist, all the cops in the valley knew of Dan Lafferty: those of us, those of us in the scene were aware of the past violent interaction that Dan had had with the Highway Patrol. They had stopped him three times for speeding. He never appeared. They had three warrants for his arrest and Trooper Les Langford saw him and they went after him. And he pulled over, took off again. He pulled over again hand rolled his window wouldn’t get out. A Trooper put his arm through the window and Dan rolled it up on him and started to drive away with the officer attached. Luckily, he went in the burrow pit and the officer came free. Dan got out and was running down the freeway apparently, screaming for them to be witnesses. Well, did we know Ron and Dan Lafferty? Yeah, because Dan and a bunch of people went to, Ron and a bunch of people went to Dan’s trials and created quite a disturbance. And so once I was reminded by Detective cold water, this is brought to my fact that this mic was brought to my knowledge. This was the last release. Yeah, I’d heard about him quite a bit. He was charged with a number of felonies. Since he would not appear for probation, he was sentenced by the judge to 90-day evaluation of the state prison. We knew that Dan had served his time in prison was released. Detective Cole also told me that Alan had reported that Brenda and Eric his life had been threatened by Ron and Dan Lafferty. President Richard Stone, who was a stake president of the Highland stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was also threatened, as was Chloe Lowe, who was the Relief Society president when Ron and his wife Diana, lift, Diana or Diane I’m sorry, it slipped my mind. Diana Diana. Lived in their ward Chloe law was really set a precedent so she was very supportive of Diana during the course of Dan subsequent excommunication in their divorce detective Cole will and the officers who had been convicted canvassing the area are reporting in to me and a vehicle matching the description of a station wagon owned by Ron and Dan had been seen by the neighbors in that area sometime between five correction between three and three 345 and it was seen in the driveway once and then it was observed to return. It was very recognizable. There’s a long older model, Chevy stationwagon light green and color had you top plates on it and there was a red and white ice chest on top of on top of the vehicle so it stood out in the neighbors noticed. This coincided coincided with the disturbance the neighbors, or the other occupants on the other side of the duplexer had heard and the time they had not wanted to get involved and they did not call the police even though they’d heard a disturbance. 10:30pm attempt to locate based upon what Allen’s statement was and the information gathered by the officers, the county attorney no wooden and when Watson instructed me to enter Ron and Dan Lafferty to unknown male suspects, their vehicle their license their description in the National Crime Information computer, and to broadcast and attempt to locate in Utah and the surrounding states, which we did at about 1030. So that would have been two, two and a half hours and we had good suspect information. The processing of the crime scene was conducted using the best known crime scene procedures and practices at the time. I look back now on what we have. When I retired in 2017, after 46 years of law enforcement service in Utah, the DNA, the photography, the chemicals, so much more information and capabilities and tests that I wish I would have had back in those days. But nonetheless, we protected the scene and we use the best practices we had at that time. The actual processing was as follows. Start into the front door we first photograph that area completely in first Polaroid instant film, so we’ve got something in case nothing else comes out. We’ve got some pictures. Then we went to 35 millimeter black and white because sometimes you can enter color film in courts. Then we went to 35 millimeter color and then to 35 millimeter slides and then to VCR provided by Provo city and their officers. When the state medical examiner’s on call investigator arrived, Brenda’s hands were covered in paper bags, small paper bags tape shut, we wanted to protect what may have been under her fingernails or on her hands. He took a body core temperature to determine the time of death. They make a slight incision, they insert a thermometer into her liver area and based upon the temperature in the apartment, the lividity marks the rigor mortis, he estimated that she had died between 1pm and 4pm that day. After that the crime scene was documented the kitchen crime scene was documented in the same manner as the front door. After processing the kitchen and turning Brenda’s body over to the Utah State Medical Examiner. We would proceed to document Erica and her room 1145 Brenda was turned over to the state medical examiner who placed her in a body bag and moved her into his transportation van. July 24 1am. This is Wednesday, we moved into Eric his room and repeated the crime scene processing. We were able for the first time to lift Brenda lift Erica up and be able to see the actual wound. And at that point, I could see that it wasn’t my daughter, but it might as well have been. Erica was released to the medical examiner for transportation along with Brenda for autopsy. After Brenda and Erica were removed blood samples and other physical items were seized and taken as evidence. The drains from all the sinks in the house were emptied put into containers in case the suspects had washed off their hands blood hair samples. We took the drains we took the contents there of the apartment was dusted for fingerprints The following morning In the store opened, I sent an officer purchased a brand new vacuum cleaner. And before leaving the scene that morning we vacuum thoroughly the house looking for hair and hair and fibers for later analysis. We noticed that in the backyard, the back door was not locked going out as a sliding door and the kiddie pool had been filled earlier. And there was fresh laundry on the on the line and there was a basket you carry your laundry out and looked at So Brenda had been doing her laundry. We noted that the blood smears on the drapes appear to have the bloody imprint of a knife. If you grabbed the drapes and put the knife in it and went like this, you’d be left with a double signature there. Also there’s a lot of wiping so somebody had wipe their their hands on the white grapes. The pillow there’s a pillow from the master bedroom in the kitchen by Brenda’s head and one side of the pillow had blood on that pillow. And subsequently we would look at that and say that pillow was used to smother her. Throughout the night and early morning hours information continue to come in and was documented. Alan was permitted to leave and go home with family members. Detective Caldwell reported to me at the scene. I notified the mayor of American American Fork Malcolm Beck, who offered whatever support was needed. He agreed to notify the members of the City Council is a big deal. Something like this happens in town. It’s a big deal. Mayor Beck and the City Council were absolutely supportive of the police department during the investigation and allocated funds necessary for overtime. And there were hundreds of hours needed equipment and travel is warranted. While the evidence has been collected in the crime scene being processed I again brief the county attorney on scene. I met with the media who were standing on the street. every media outlet in the state was there and they were all standing out there in big lines with cameras and they were they had been there for a couple hours and they were prepared to stay all night and they did stay all night. We could see that close coverage what was going to be our life for the foreseeable future. I did not give the media in the name of the victims, only their gender and approximate ages. The media was told that the death seemed to be by a very sharp cutting instrument. Due to the extensive media coverage. I knew that the Brenda’s family in Idaho would shortly be contacted by the media Idaho now wanting to have them receive notification from the media and not wanting them to receive it from an officer that really didn’t know what had taken place. I decided that I would call the family. I called a woman answered and I asked if I could speak to the father Mr. Right. I when he got on the phone Hi slowly and clearly identified myself told him who I was with. I told him that his daughter and granddaughter had been killed the preceding evening. I told him that we had identified the likely suspects and had released Brendan Erica to the medical examiner’s office for autopsy. I answered what questions I could that he asked me. I told him to please prepare his family for probable contact from news media. And I encouraged him to refer the media back to me if they called him, I would take care of it. I also asked him to notify his extended family and to call me back anytime I told him I would keep him in contact, which I did. About a week after the homicide he and his family came and met with me in my office in American Fork. But I kept him apprised of the progress of the case. 10:30am We have finished the initial process in the crime scene. We’ve been there for about 14 and a half hours. My officers and I have been awake for the whole about 24 hours before that. And so I send everybody home for a three to four hour rest break with instructions to report back at about 3pm In the afternoon, where we would start again because I firmly believe the wall that the cases hot. You push just as hard as you can until there’s nothing else that you can do. And then you take the brake. And so we work that evening till approximately 8pm booking evidence calling people talking to the media writing reports at about eight o’clock. We’ve kind of reached a point where it’s time to send the officers home. So I released all the officers I sent everyone home to rest. I designated which officers I wanted back to the station first thing in the morning. And the next morning we started again, that’s Thursday, July 26. At 7am, which we got a multi agency task force was was on our mind to do. AF PD officers attended the autopsies transported evidence to the state crime lab. The crime scene, photographs were developed, potential witnesses were identified, and interviews continued. I coordinated all the investigative actions and return this necessary media calls. Early in the morning, I was contacted by the Special Agent in Charge of the Salt Lake office of the FBI Special Agent Terry Knowles. He offered agents to form part of the task force. No one had seen the vehicle or the suspects and we felt they probably fled across straight state lines. Up to 20 FBI agents in various parts of the country were assigned to assist in the investigation. initial meetings with FBI agents the Utah County Sheriff and local police departments were conducted. This was a county wide effort by many of the agencies in Utah County. information was shared responsibilities assigned and delegated. We learned that the Alpine Highland police department had a forced entry burger burger. It’s the home of Chloe Lowe, that name had come up the night before. So we instantly put together that hey, this is probably related to Ron and Dan Lafferty. And so it was treated by that department with the same degree of concern that we had treated the homicide scene the night before. No one had been at home at the colloidal residence. They had all been as a family, grandkids, kids, a large family had all been out of town on vacation. I believe they were up at Bear Lake but I could be corrected investigative activity and that would follow would continue every day from 8am until we ran out of leads or need for follow up of the day. This continued until July 30, when the first major break occurred in the case. July 30, Monday approximately 9pm The Utah DPS had provided an aircraft and flew me down to page Arizona, while my officers were interviewing a wide variety of witnesses, fundamental groups, people that the Lafayette is is associated with, I went down to interview man and one of his wives by the name of Alex Joseph. He was the mayor of big water. And we had heard a possibility that Ron and Dan had stopped in there to see him before they’d come back into Utah. And so I’d met I found out that Ron and dad had showed up there on the 13th of July. And that Ron and Dan tried to do some conversion of people in the town. And Mr. Joseph and his wife, who I believe was the county attorney at that time, ordered the town Marshal to escort them out of the out of the city out of the town. I was in the aircraft and we were flying back. When I received a radio call that a message had come in from the Cheyenne Police Department up in Wyoming. They notified that they had located the Lafferty vehicle that morning, two suspects one in the house and one in the car. We’re located and arrested without incident. The vehicle was impounded. I had dispatch advise them that I would be landing very shortly I would make contact with the county attorney we would obtain what paperwork was necessary. And we would be enroute to Cheyenne, Wyoming first thing the next morning. I contacted Mr. Wu and he had already prepared warrants. Paperwork. He arranged for a private aircraft bought an eight passenger aircraft. They medicine we took off at about 7am in the morning and flew to Cheyenne. We were met at the airport by investigators there they said the two men had been rested and they had given me the names the night before it was Ricky Knapp. And Charles who went by Chip corns. Carnes had relatives there in Cheyenne. Both of them had agreed to be extradited. So all we had to do was go in before the judge have them waive their rights, and they returned over to us early in the afternoon of that day we arranged for their via the vehicle that they had ceased to be taped up. We called record from American Fork to come up and to take custody of that record and take it back to our department for processing. The Ric I’m not gonna I’m gonna call a nap and Karns they were transported out to our aircraft where we built them in with handcuffs to change. We put leg cuffs on him. We separate them in the aircraft, one at the front and one in the back. And once we got airborne, Mr. Wooden county attorney know what and how to maybe as Wayne Watson also had a discussion with them and said, You guys are in a lot of trouble. It would be advisable for you to cooperate and will work with your attorney will do work something with you. But you’re going to be charged with these murders. It would be best for you to cooperate at this point. They will read their rights. Both of them waive their rights and they were very willing to talk. They were too frightened individuals. I took one of the suspects, we tend to call the tip the other and we start conducting interviews. We got some critical and key information on that flight back. In brief, we learned the following. One, Ron and Dan had been on a two month trip around the country. Ron was receiving revelations and calling himself a prophet. Dan believed that Iran was a prophet. They had first gone to re Reno where by gambling God was going to give them money. That’s what Ron and Dan believed. So they spent all their money on the tables and lost every penny a will. So they went out and got day jobs and the next night they’re back in lost the money next night they’re back in and this went on for approximately 10 days that they stayed in Reno. During that time, the brothers met and befriended a female blackjack dealer. Ron got a relation they can needed to continue their travels. And so they did continue their travels and Ron would often stay in the vehicle while Dan would go out and get day jobs and work to provide for food and gas. Ron said he needed to rest and commune with the Lord. They went to California, then to Arizona. The laugh readers would sleep in their car and we were contacted frequently by patrolling police officers whom they hated. This was two months before the homicides. From there they went in Nebraska went to Nebraska where they met a street person by the name of Ricky Knapp. Low Level, criminal Napa street level and taught them how to dine and dash taught them how to steal and get by, take gasoline. They then went back to California with the three of them and they met Karns who his vehicle had just died at a rest stop. He needed a ride and they offered him to go and he got in the car with him and when so now there’s four of them. They received a revelation that they were supposed to go talk to Alex Joseph so they drove down when and Alex Joseph’s little town and as you know, they were invited fairly quickly to leave. They left they’re arriving back in Provo, a week or two before the homicides. In Dan’s journal specifically, he writes on the 13th that Dan had told them that Ron felt as though they needed to return to Utah with murder weapons in hand. When they tried to convert the people in the Tamil they were kicked out. From my notes, I now recollect that they they arrived back in approval three days before the homicide and stayed at their mother’s house. While they’re run and Dan sawed the barrel off of a Remington 870 pump shotgun 12 gauge shot cut off the stock, cut the buttstock and cut off the barrel. They picked up a 3030 rifle on by one of the brothers. They purchased a wooden handled 10 inch fillet knife that Ron would carry in his boot. They also were aware that Dan kept a daily journal and these revelations in journals were kept in a briefcase of the Dan had the next one the night before The homicides run and Dan napping Karns held a meeting and discussed the murders. Hey, they knew they were going to do it. The following morning they got up and they drove to American Fork. They arrived some time in the afternoon, three o’clock. Give or take. Dan got out, went to the front door screen door opened it knocked on the door. And nobody answered. Through our investigation, we determined that most likely Erica was playing in the kiddie pool. And Brenda was hanging out the laundry. They left and drove around town for a while Ron and Dan were talking back and forth. Now this is coming from Napa and Carnes and the sand. We know she’s there. I feel like we ought to go back so they went back 15 minutes away, maybe in their back in the driveway again. nap and Karns remained in the car and they could hear and see what took place at the front door. Dan knocked again and this time Brenda answered. Dan asked for a rifle that Alan had the belong to Ron or Dan and Brenda told him no. Dan forced his way into the residence and the door slammed shut. Brenda, clearly audible was screaming and begging for her baby’s life. She was promised to do what they wanted her to do. Dan was beating Brenda and she was fighting for her life and the life of her daughter. Either nap or Karnes told Ron that He better get in and help Dan because it sounded like Brenda was kicking his run went to the door tried to get in but the door was blocked by Brenda and Dan who were fighting right behind the door. Ron put his shoulder to the door and forced it open and went in. Bread that continued to scream and the sound of a violent assault was clear to the to in the car. Brenda went silent. They could still hear Erica in the background crying and saying Mommy Mommy muck and she stopped. After under 10 minutes the baby Stop crying and Ron and Dan came back to the vehicle having exited out through the backs sliding patio door and around the vehicle which was parked towards the front of the driveway. Ron’s pants, Levi’s from his knees down, had a lot of blood spray on them. They were wearing cowboy boots. The front of Dan’s t shirt was bloodsoaked very noticeably. As they drove away Ron said to Damn, this is quoting Knapp and Karns I can’t believe it. I killed the bee. He then said the damn thing. Thanks for doing the baby. I couldn’t do it. Dan said no problem. It was easy. The spirit was with me. Run a Dan had done into Brenda’s Rhonda Dan had gone to Brenda’s apartment first. Because she and Erica were the first one listed on a death revelation a removal revelation. The next person listed was Chloe Lowe. They proceeded to Chloe’s house. Colloidal was hated by Ron. She had been supportive of Ron’s ex wife, Diana during the divorce and excommunication. She had encouraged Diana to leave and move to Florida, which she did. Ron hated Diana. Arrival at Foyles residents according to map and Karns. They live those lives in Highland corn stayed out of the end of the driveway with a 3030 rifle to keep watch. The other three went to the residence and knocked. There was no answer. So they kicked the door in Miraculously, the entire low family numbering approximately 30 people, children to adults were out of town on vacation. Had they been home. Many if not all would have been killed. They had the shotgun, they had the knife. They had the wherewithal they had the anger. They stole a few vital items of value and left. They then drove to President Richard skos house in Highland. He was on the list. And the reason he was on it was because he was the church authority responsible for a presiding at the excommunication of Ron Lafferty. He didn’t like the church he didn’t like Richard stone. stone his family were home he and his children however, Ron and Dan missed the turn. I think Ron was driving he missed the turn on to stows Street. The brothers were big believers in being guided by the spirit and decided that since they had missed the street apparently, God did not want stoled to die. So they drove on out of town. They proceeded to wind over Utah went overwhelming I’m window from Nevada. As they arrived in town, they were stopped by an officer for a broken taillight. Dan had the shotgun in the backseat with him. He was still had bloody bloody T shirts on run, still have the same pants on. The officer did not approach their car. He just sat in his car wrong. Got out, walk back and talk to the officer. The officer said Get your taillight fixed. Ron said yes sir. Right away. He went back and got in the car and drove away. The officer never left his car. Apparently about 15 minutes after he had stopped the car. The attempt to locate was broadcast throughout the state surrounding states. But it did not click in his mind. That car and the broadcast so no notification was made. They checked into a motel room the forum run and dead then change their clothes and wash the blood out in the in the tub. They said they were hungry and went de to the casino. nap and carne said they weren’t hungry and would stay in the room. nap and cards cards told us that they were absolutely terrified for their lives. They had observed Ron and Dan’s actions and attitudes. They believe the Ron could get another revelation anytime and they would be next. So as soon as Ron and Dan went out and they were on a site, nap and Karns loaded everything up inside that apartment, everything that belonged to Ron and Dan briefcase, contents, bloody clothes, weapons, put it in the car. They had the car keys, they drove out of town and headed north towards jackpot. Nevada. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in that motel room. When Ron and Dan walked in and observed that everything was gone. They only had what they had in their pockets. That was it. No wallets nothing. While traveling or traveling along the road to jackpot, a one of the two came across the knife wrapped in a towel at the so the wrap that up and they opened the window and slung that out before they got to jackpot. That when they got the jackpot they threw the wet clothing into a dumpster with the rest of the material keeping Dan’s briefcase, keeping Dan’s journals and copies of about 100 revelations. They headed to Cheyenne, Wyoming where Karns had relatives. When they reached Palisades reservoir on the Wyoming Idaho border. They stopped at a scenic turnout. They got out went to the guardrail and through that briefcase as far as they could over the hill down into the bushes and down towards the water. They then per se that they then proceeded to Cheyenne arriving there late on July 28 or early on the 29th. The police happen upon the vehicle distinctive parked in front of the residence. They took a stakeout on it, and they prepared to assault the house at first dawn so they hit there about five o’clock in the morning. Nap was taken into custody while sleeping in the car. Karns was inside the house and was taken into custody. We arrived back in Utah on the evening of the 31st Having obtained absolutely critical information. Interviews with the two suspects would continue over the course of the next few days. August the second Wednesday. Early in the morning search for physical evidence. The task force was meeting the task force met and the information obtained from Carnes and nap were given to all members of the task force. The FBI agents volunteered to go to Windover handle the motel room there and then to go to jackpot and check for the knife alongside and check the dumpsters. I sent to my officers, Lieutenant Dave Cowden and Corporal Larry burns to Palisades reservoir with instructions to go Go to those scenic turnouts get out, go down and bring me that briefcase. They all proceeded out August 3 and fourth 1984. There are so many interviews taking place with Lafferty brothers laughing members, friends, neighborhood neighbors, members of various groups that the Lafayette is associated with that in southern Utah County. We received hundreds of telephonic leads, each one was followed up on search warrants were executed a residences where the Lafferty who are known to have stayed in the prior time before discovery of the death revelation. Big happening. One more produced a significant piece of evidence. In a bedroom that Ron had stayed in was a clothes closet, some of his clothes are still there, in the pocket of a flannel shirt, owned by Ron was found a folded up page from a yellow legal pad, standard copy. The document in Ron’s handwriting was the infamous death revelation. They would subsequently release that death revelation to the media through their attorneys. So this is a xerox copy of the full size, one that it was shrunk down and put on the put in the newspaper. read you the death revelation now. The thus saith the Lord into my servants the prophets. It is my will and commandment that you remove the following individuals in order that my work might go forward, for they have truly become obstacles in my path. And I will not allow my work to be stopped. First my brother’s wife, Brenda and her baby, then Chloe Lowe, and then Richard Stoll. And it is my will that they be removed in rapid succession. And that an example be made of them in order that others might see the fate of those who fight against the true saints of God. And it is my will that this matter be taken care of as soon as possible. And I will prepare a way for my instrument to be delivered, and instructions be given unto my servant, Todd, and it is my will and He showed great care in his duties, for I have raised him up and prepared him for this important work. And is he not like unto my servant Porter Rockwell, and great blessings await him, if he will do My will. For I am the Lord that God and have control over all things. Be still and know that I am with thee. Even so, amen. You might wonder who Todd was. He was a member of a group who is called the School of the prophets. I’m going to address them here momentarily. And the death revelation that was written on a couple of months before the homicides and was presented to the school of the prophets. I’ll talk about that in just a minute. This document though, was proof of the intent of run down and the danger people were in. The stole and low families had been provided with arm protection, Diana Lafferty and her family who were being protected by police in Florida. Due to the threats Ron and Dan had made against leaders of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, church security had been briefed, and they provided enhanced security for selected leaders while the lefties were being sought. August 4 1984 Saturday morning, FBI agents called and reported that they had located the murder weapon wrapped in a towel just as Napa Carms. It said in the approximate location, they were unable to locate any evidence in the dumpster. And they as they had been emptied. They turn the knife and towel over to me and it was booked into evidence. It was later taken to the crime lab to be tested. I had brought with me a knife that is extremely similar to the one they had. I don’t have that knife because it was taken apart and processed for blood and human blood was found on in the wooden grips. But this knife is the same size, the same style. It’s a fillet knife it had a dark wooden handle it was just rounded like that instead of having these edges. This knife if you took it and placed it in the drapes of the back door and drew it like this. The imprint of that exact size blade would have been left on the drapes. I received a call from Lieutenant Cowden and Corporal burns. They had located the briefcase in the location given by Knapp and Carnes and will return with it to American Fork as quickly as they could. August the fourth and fifth Saturday and Sunday. The community American Fork Pleasant Grove Linden All through Utah County, Highland, Alpine especially. They were they were in fear and sorrow because of the tragic events. I was informed that the entire Highland stake was participating in a fast for the timely capture of Ron and Dan and for the safety of potential victims. I received the briefcase and access the journals access dance journal, I saw that he wrote in and nearly every day in great detail, he described their two to three month travel activities, and the persons they admit with contact information and addresses. Also contained in the brief, the briefcase were copies of numerous handwritten and typewritten revelations that stretched back over a period of months. Now, much has been said about Dan and Ron being members of the school of the prophets, not so much. The school of the prophets was was organized by a name, a man named Bob Crossfield, who called himself the prophet or NYAS. He lived in southern Utah County, he had a number of friends like to get together and discuss the mysteries of God and the kingdom. Some of his groups may have been, but most are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And that whole group was very happy to, so to speak, fly under the radar. Ron and Dan always sustain each other, and another of their brothers, who also attended became a significant voting bloc. It was accepted by the group that revelation could be received by any members. And if two or more people agreed that it was a good revelation, then it was accepted by the group. Dan tried to assume leadership of the group, and it was not well received due to he and Dan’s radical views. What got them out from the group was when Dan brought in a revelation which I just read to you. And he brought in an old fashioned safety razor like menus to shave with his fancy was an antique, and he wanted to dedicate and sanctify and anoint that instrument to be used to carry out the revelation. Well, this caused great consternation in the school of the prophets. In fact, the prophet on iOS was so concerned that he swore out a statement and had it notarized by a notary public the saying, Rana den are crazy. They want to kill people, and I’m afraid that I’m going to be one of them, we obtain that notaries. But they did not. He never gave that to law enforcement. They never reported it to anybody. He was just kept in the group. contents of the briefcase, that afternoon, and evening, and through most of the night, I stayed up and I read all the contents of the briefcase, I read the journal, I read the revelations I organized, I drew several conclusions. The first was a Ron’s revelation, which was written the format and language of scriptures in the Doctrine and Covenants. They were nothing more than instruments used to manipulate people who had some knowledge of Doctrine and Covenants in the way those revelations are documented, they’re in or who had a church background. In the revelations directed many of his family members and associates, he instructed them in the voice of the prophet of God, to perform certain activities that are unwanted, accomplished. So when Todd was mentioned, Todd was a member of the School of prophets. And Todd happened to have a dream one night, that he was a mighty avenging angel from the Gulf for God. And so Ron jumped on that really quick, wrote his name in the Revelation. And when Todd was given a copy that he said, not me. So the group broke up, and they were scared. He was a master manipulator and preyed upon the feelings and beliefs of those who purported to care for he really did not believe he was a prophet. You could tell from the writing. But then, Dan believe would run in the sand and Dan, for a long time, believed the Ron was a prophet of God. The second conclusion based upon the information dance journal was that they were probably in renal. It had been where they were heading when they lost their car. And they always tried to follow the inspiration that Ron first had, or the initial decision they had made. I felt strongly that they were there as they had a support system of acquaintances that they could approach for help. And they knew how to survive in a gaming town where you get to for ones on just about everything. And I was convinced it was very important that I and FBI agents go to Reno the next day and make contact with all of these people that were listed in the journal. August the sixth morning early. We arrived in Reno by aircraft I detect a cold wall and I we met the FBI agents. We contacted everyone who did Dan named in his journal. Significantly, we met with and interviewed the female blackjack dealer. She said she had not heard or seen from Dan and was not aware of the homicide. I showed her pictures of victims. I said you could well become a victim here. If you hear from them or see them. Don’t go with them. immediately notify the FBI and she was visibly frightened and concerned. She agreed to help when there was no one left to interview late in the evening. We took the last flight back into Salt Lake returning August the seventh Tuesday my birthday. I’m about ready to get a birthday present. Best birthday present I’ve ever had 10am Approximately we’re in a multi agency task force and a phone call comes in at Special Agent in Charge Terry Knowles of Salt Lake. He said the Rana Dan had been taken into custody that morning and Reno. He said the blackjack dealer had gone into work to cash your check. When she walked in, she saw the lefty brothers walking up the stairs to the buffet. Had she been 10 seconds later, she would not have seen them going up the stairs. She immediately notified it because notified casino security who called the FBI, Ron and Dan had told that in Karns, that they would never be taken alive. And the FBI was aware of their statement. Six FBI agents responded to casino approached them unseen and took them indicus aggressively into custody without incident. Some people say we just got a lucky break in when we got the four suspects. Others would say we got breaks because we aggressively worked every detail of the case. I say with my faith background that a series of miracles occurred. One thing I had not mentioned was after the initial walkthrough, I was alone in the residence by myself. And I went into the master bedroom and I knelt down and I told Heavenly Father I need to help this. This was big. I had experience but this was really big. And I needed an extra measure of insight and wisdom. And I prayed for that. And for the safety of people. It was a short prayer. But I can tell you it was heartfelt because my attention was fully focused. The miracles that I think occurred first miracle. The little family was not home. No one was hurt when their home was invaded. Number two, the stove family was not hurt due to the massive laughter he’s missing a turn. Three. No one else was harmed by the suspect while they were on the run for napping cards were located in a timely fashion. Five key evidence was discovered in time to pinpoint the laughter these six a key witness in a very narrow timeframe. saw the laughter he’s informed police. I believe that some of the miracles came as a result of prayer. Also, the Highland stake held a fast for the safety of their members and a rapid apprehension of the lefties. Ron and Dan were arrested within 48 hours of the fast and prayers which started on Saturday. I do believe in miracles. I don’t believe in luck. The county attorney his chief deputy detective Caldwell and I made arrangements to fly out that afternoon to interview the last release. Upon arrival, we were transported by the FBI to the county jail where we interviewed Ron and dam initial interviews. Ron didn’t want to speak with us. When I first entered the sale with Dan, he asked me if I remembered him. I told him I don’t I know of you. And I’ve learned a lot about you from nap and Karns he reminded me that when I was a patrolman at BYU, he had evaded me on a motorcycle and had dumped the motorcycle down in the bushes on maser Hill. I remembered I found that abandoned, abandoned motorcycle, got the serial number tracked it down, went to the Lafferty residents saw down there recognized him and issued a citation for the evading. So I guess I did I was the first one to give him a ticket. I told him that nap and Carms had been very forthcoming about the details of the crime. He was very guarded about the case. And he wanted to philosophize about church doctrine, when he would not provide any pertinent information. And near the end of my interview, I looked at him and I said, Damn, I can understand how you might have been angry with Brenda, an adult woman. I can understand that perhaps that led to her murder, your anger. What I can’t understand is how you could kill Erica. She was just a baby. And she was innocent. And he said, Chief, are you a member of the church? Right? I said, I was. And he said, If the Lord commanded you to kill someone, would you do it? I replied, If I knew that it was God, and God wanted somebody removed. I could do it. He then said, there’s your answer. He believed the Ron was a prophet, and he was following God’s revelation. through revelation, so he was he was prepared to do whatever Ron asked him to do. He would later try to get me to testify to this conversation when he was on trial for homicide. The prosecutor when Watson objected, saying what Chief Johnson would or would not do is not admissible in this case. The judge sustained his objection, and Dan rested his case. Background. They had motive intent and opportunity for the homicides. One. Ron and Dan had anti government anti authority records and attitude to if one was having trouble the other we’re always back to first one up three. When Dan was excommunicated, Ron stood by him. Ron wrote letters challenging that decision that started him on the road excommunication. 401 Dan was charged and sent to prison bronze supported him. Five Ron hated anyone who supported his wife six I’m sorry Ron hated anyone who supported his wife during their divorce to include Loy koi Lola and Brenda Lafferty. Seven Richard stoep resided during Ron’s excommunication proceedings. Eight. Ron made a statement they took away my children. That would be Brenda that would be Chloe. That would be Richard Stoll. That would be anybody that had anything to do with his divorce and excommunication. Therefore, anyone involved including Erica or their children, could be removed. Nine it was Ron’s hate and anger that motivated the killings. 10 Dan loved his oldest brother, and believe that he was a prophet and was receiving a revelation from God. August the 19th 4pm after appropriate judicial proceedings, and renal Ron and Dan returned over the state of Utah deeming the Ron and Dan were too dangerous to be transported back by vehicle or commercial airlines. The State of Utah provided a 10 passenger aircraft for the extradition detective Colwill myself for uniformed American Ford police officers accompanied by the county attorney flew to Reno to extradite them. I had two officers assigned to each suspect. We were very formal. We I told them, they were not to trust the lefties at all. And they were to watch them constantly. The brothers were handcuffed to build chains and their feet were secured by foot cuffs and attached to the seat frame of the of the aircraft. And I know that’s not what would be acceptable by the airline industry. But that plane belonged to the state of Utah and those boys are not going anyplace but back to Utah. They were transported to the Provo airport. We made no attempt to interview them. It was just silence. We arrived there at 10pm. A large media presence was waiting. They were taken to the Utah County Jail and each book on six first degree capital felonies, as had napping Karns been charged suicide attempt by Ron and the court proceedings the county attorney had intended to try them together. However, Ron attempted suicide on December 29 1984 while in his jail cell, he hung something I think was his bed sheets around the bars and went down and he nearly succeeded. He was in bad shape. He was observed by a jailer and they performed resuscitation and they got him back. The investigation and court proceedings would proceed for the better part of two years. Dan was first tried and found guilty. He was sentenced to life without parole. Ron was treated and evaluated at the state mental hospital. After a number of months, he was found competent to stand trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to be executed. While in the state prison. Dan was in general population Ron was on death row. Ron and Dan had a falling out and began to hate each other. Ron passed away of natural causes on death row on November 11 2019. Dan is still serving his sentence at the Utah State Prison as of this moment, July 1984, let me take you back promise made by the American Fork officers. During the first days after the murders, I met with all of my officers in a room and we agreed that none of us would ever write a book about the homicides for personal gain. We agreed to honor Brenda and Erica’s memories and support the right family to the best of our abilities. I believe my officers kept that agreement. And I continue to honor that promise. That’s why I’m here today. Now, I often pray for the safety of our law enforcement officers who stand between us and the evil actions of people like those that we have discussed this evening. That would be the end of my report. Do you have any questions you can ask of me?
Craig Foster 1:11:45
Yes. I actually have a few questions. Now. First of all, the name of one of the officers. I think he would use one name but it might be another name.
Randy Johnson 1:11:57
I had misspoken about Corporal Larry Burnham, not burns Burnham. I’ve been watching too many mash shows. At Larry Burnham.
Craig Foster 1:12:07
Okay, very good. Thank you. Um, I do have some other questions. You know, it’s been reported that some of the officers had dreams about, about the murders, and even including drempt of bloody hands. Is there anything to that?
Randy Johnson 1:12:28
Yes, there is, in 1984, that, after care of officers who go to crime scenes like that, all we did was hug on each other and kind of talk with each other. But everybody kind of manned up and the feelings were there. There was tears shed, there were people upset. There were officers that cried. But we didn’t have the resources and knowledge that we have today to take care of officers who handle this kind of scene. And I feel bad about that. But yes, there is truth that my officers and I were personally, deeply affected by this. The person that had the dream, or the nightmare was actually me. And I told my officers about it during the course of decompression. It was either the first night that we first afternoon that we got three or four hours asleep or the the night following when we got a little bit more sleep. But I was asleep. And in my mind. I could see the ceiling above be and there was drops of blood that were falling down from the ceiling. And they were landing on my hands. And I woke up taking my hands going like this. And then I realized that I’d been having a nightmare. But I’m the only one that I know that had a dream about blood dropping from the ceiling. But I know how sensitive my officers were. They most all of them had little children. I had the 15 month old baby the look just like Erica, this was a traumatic, traumatic situation for my good officers. And they were good officers. Most of them would have been members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. A couple were not active. There might have been one or two that were not members of the church. I was Detective Colwill was. Detective Finlayson was a part time female officer at the crime scene she was but nobody’s faith was shipped by this. We recognize them for what they were. They were mentally sick criminals.
Craig Foster 1:14:54
Yep. Thank you. So I’ve got Horse. A number of people think that this was a ritual killing, given the basically cutting year to year. Did you or any other investigators see this as a ritual killing
Randy Johnson 1:15:19
you not at all. There was no ceremony type of thing about the crime scene. The only thing that puts a religious tinge on this is that revelation that Ron had about dedicating that instrument and removing people that occurred two or three months before the homicide. I don’t remember seeing anything that would have caused me to consider that to be a ritualistic killing. And for the past tell for about 1520 years of my professional career. I taught across the country on Satanism, witchcraft, Voodoo, ritualistic killing. And so I clearly understand what ritualistic killing was, and that killing was not. They beat her because she resisted. They strangled her with the court in hopes to kill her. You could clearly see three bruise circles around her next two to three. When she continued to fight and scream, they smothered her apparently, that did not kill her. And so they had brought that knife which was not the instrument that they wanted to dedicate, it was a knife of convenience that they had purchased just the day or two before. That knife was not set apart. It was not consecrated, it was not dedicated. It was an it was simply a way to make sure that she was dead. The term ear to ear is a term that I used, because in fact, Brenda’s throat was cut from just below the ear to just below the year. One smooth long cut which certainly did kill her the autopsy, the medical examiner said the beating probably would not have killed her. The strangulation and then smothering could have killed her. But the blood let from the the knife wound certainly did kill her. I think she was alive when her throat was cut. Because if you remember nap and carne said that Ron’s pant legs from the neon down, we’re pretty well, blood covered. They then went back into the bedroom with Erica and they loved that little baby. They said they didn’t want to beat the baby. So then put his hand on top the baby’s head and simply use the knife in the same fashion that had been used on Brenda. We believe that Ron killed Brenda and Ben killed Erica. No, no temple reference nothing there. And I have been through the temple and I saw nothing at the crime scene that would cause me to go old. This was related to the church. Not at all.
Craig Foster 1:18:27
All right, thank you. So I think that you’ve explained well, that the that there wasn’t a relationship between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the American Fork Police Department other than some of the police officers were members of the Church. The you didn’t have any in there was no influenced by the church over how you ran your investigation or anything else.
Randy Johnson 1:18:59
Not at all, as I said, because some of the leadership of the church were threatened President Richard Stoll, LDS church security was notified and briefed on the case so that they could take whatever action they deemed appropriate. The only people I spoke with there would be a person on a comparable level to a sergeant or lieutenant who took the information and then they did what they did. I was never contacted by anybody in the LDS church whatsoever.
Craig Foster 1:19:30
Thank you. Now as with the various officers in the in the police department, as well as when you were visiting with people or better yet when you were interrogating the possible suspects. Did you refer to them as brother and sister as you would if you were in a church setting?
Randy Johnson 1:19:55
Not at all. I never heard it. I would suspect that If somebody was talking to Richard Stoll, they may or may not have referred to him as president scope, which was his ecclesiastical title. But we did not commonly or even infrequently ever refer to each other as brother, sister this that we were a professional law enforcement agency. And I was known to be just a little bit military and formal. I was always chief. My officers were always dressed by their first name or by their title. We did not refer to each other as brother this and brother that and when we interview people, we don’t bring up religion as a twist to get them to. To confess, I was that was forbidden. When I worked at BYU Police Department, it just seemed a wise idea. We dealt with the facts of the crime and not the religion of the person who was involved. The lefties brought religion into it, we didn’t.
Craig Foster 1:21:11
And speaking of the left review, you said obviously you had plenty of interaction with Dan and Ron after you arrested them. What kind of interaction did you have with other members of the Lafferty family,
Randy Johnson 1:21:26
we had a lot of interaction with Alan, he was one of our primary witnesses. You interviewed all of the Lafferty brothers and the Lafferty sisters, and the mother, but I did not conduct those interviews. They were conducted by task force members, primarily from my department. We had lots of interviews with them had lots of information. And based upon our reports, Now, also, I would mention, we also interviewed Bob Crossfield, all the members of the school of the prophets. That’s where we got that affidavit that he signed. We interviewed them a great detail, all of our reports, which were comprehensive, were turned over to the county attorney’s office, Mr. Wooden and Mr. Watson determined who they were going to charge and what they were going to charge with. But anybody that could have been a co conspirator to the murders, was looked at very carefully by the judicial system. The charges were brought against Knapp and Karns. Ron and Dan, were what the county attorney felt best that they could prove. And therefore those were the people that were charged. We were very comfortable with the decision of Mr. Wooden and Mr. Watson.
Craig Foster 1:22:50
All right. Regarding the Lafferty family, I realized that Dan ran for county sheriff and you had had some interaction with them, as you mentioned, previous to all of this, but as for the family itself, have you heard of the Lafferty family by reputation, or rumor or anything else? Their father, for example, who was a chiropractor, had you heard anything about the Lafferty family? No,
Randy Johnson 1:23:22
the Lafferty family became known to me from Dan’s activities. And then Ron supporting Dan, through his trials, and then the evasion and then the attempted homicide on the police officer that the den was charged with. So the lefties kind of rose to our our awareness. But the father Lafferty, the mother, Lafferty, the other brothers, the sisters, they were unconscious, inconsequential. They were not famous. They were not well known. They were common people. The lefties were hard working family. Father Lafferty had some pretty strong political views. He may or may not have given them to his children. But the Lafferty family, they were victimized also. Ron and dam have no excuse. The Lafferty family are victimized they’re their children. The children of Dan and Ron, can you imagine? There’s there’s more victims to this case than simply the ones who died? Yeah. Did I answer your question? You
Craig Foster 1:24:43
did? Absolutely. And that’s so true. The that’s the way it usually is not only the children of the victims if there’s if there are children living, but the children’s of the children of the perpetrator at such Are they all their victims? You know, in the great scheme of things. So, you’ve mentioned having your task force interviewing the various fundamentalists that that Ron and Dan had associated with particularly Alex Joseph, in his wipes down in a big water, that there are fundamentalists within Utah County. Were you aware of them before this? And did? Had you been aware of any possible connection of the lab for these two fundamentalists other than Bob Crossfield?
Randy Johnson 1:25:41
Not at all until after the homicides took place? We became aware, they are quiet group, they keep themselves they want to stay under the radar. And Dan and Ron, we’re not under the radar. Right.
Craig Foster 1:25:58
Okay. And you’ve already really talked about Bob Crossfield and a school of the prophets, which was excellent overview is do you have any other comments about? Crossfield or the school of the prophets
Randy Johnson 1:26:14
never heard another word out of them after the trials and so forth. I understand some moved out of state members of the of that group, or scared of Ron and Dan, when Ron and Dan run the loose, they didn’t know what Ron and Dan would do. Knapp and Carnes had very good reason to be scared of Ron and Damn, they were capable of just about anything.
Craig Foster 1:26:38
And this is a great segue into another question that I have, and that is the Lafferty is extreme behavior, and then obviously, the murders that took place. Do you believe that in any way? Were they caused by the teachings or the doctrines of the LDS church? Or was this basically, Dan and Ron,
Randy Johnson 1:27:04
you can’t remove the fact that both of them were returned missionaries. They had held positions in their in their church. They had a lot of the same gospel knowledge that you and I would have, they had built been through the temple ceremonies. But I just do not believe that. Anything that they did, was as a direct result of gospel doctrine. Hate that Ron had for the people who cost him his wife and his family was the intent behind the murders. It was not to do a ritual it was not to fulfill a prophecy that that never came up. Did that answer your question? Do you need to restate that again?
Craig Foster 1:28:00
Nope. I think that’s good. I think you’ve explained that. One other question that I have, what impact did these murders have on the community of American Fork? The people, the residents in Utah Valley, Utah was Was there any long term impact for really, quite frankly, such a brutal and horrendous murders? Two of them.
Randy Johnson 1:28:38
For the two weeks that they were on the run, this county was afraid. They didn’t know where they were. We didn’t know where they were. When the word went out that they had been apprehended on the border out the two unknown suspects were arrested. There was a sigh of relief. When the word went out that Ron and Dan were in custody. There was like a wave. You could just feel it going out from the people, because there’s not very many people in Utah County that didn’t know someone who was somehow involved. New or Lafferty new a member in school profits. New an officer that was working the case. This county and this state are invested. They were scared. They were supportive. They were anxious. And they were prayerfully grateful. When when all four men were taken off the street, everybody and Utah County was affected. And today to today. People will still get tears in their eyes when they remember and talk about this.
Craig Foster 1:29:55
All right, well, thank you. Do you have any other comments that you’d like to make or
Randy Johnson 1:30:00
Just in closing. I have tried for 38 years since the homicide to be supportive of the Wright family and the Lafferty family. Sharon Wright weeks has been a rock star as it comes to standing up for correctness, justice, truth. I understand that you folks are going to interview her and talk to her about the family. She is wonderful. What a great lady. I would listen very carefully to what she has to say she has a lot of wisdom that she’s earned in a very hard fashion. The right family are dignified through this whole thing. They have my greatest respect. Someday. I look forward to looking Brynden the eye and looking Eric in the eye and tell him we did the best we could. We had the privilege of serving you. Sorry about what happened.
Craig Foster 1:31:11
That’s great. Thank you. Thank you.