Christopher "Chris" W. Pritchard (born November 25, 1968) is an American man convicted for masterminding the attempted murder of his mother Bonnie Von Stein and the murder of his stepfather Lieth Von Stein in 1988 in Washington, North Carolina. Enlisting the help of friends James Bartlett Upchurch III and Gerald Neal Henderson, Pritchard spearheaded the murder of Von Stein in hopes of winning a US$2 million inheritance.
Dungeons & Dragons
During the investigation, Pritchard told police he and his friends occasionally entered the steam tunnels of North Carolina State University to map them out for the purposes of incorporating them into their Dungeons & Dragons game. In a later police interview, he claimed he and his friends once got high and played D&D in the steam tunnels with martial-arts style wooden weapons. Several ex-roommates and members of his gaming group, including James Upchurch, also confirmed Chris's account in police interviews, putting the number of sessions at perhaps a half dozen. The weapons involved were variously described as darts, knives, torches, fake samurai swords, rattan sticks and clubs. Drugs and alcohol were said to be involved. Police investigators found the letters "CWP" spray-painted in the tunnels.
Conviction and sentence
Pritchard was convicted of murder in the second degree (aiding and abetting) and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill or do serious injury. He was sentenced to life in North Carolina on January 31, 1990, and paroled on June 2, 2007.
In the media
The sensational case and trial are the subject of two books, each of which was adapted into a TV movie. The 1991 book Cruel Doubt by Joe McGinniss was released on TV in May 1992 as a 2-part miniseries of the same name. The 1992 book Blood Games by Jerry Bledsoe was adapted for TV in April 1992 under the title Honor Thy Mother. Both films heavily emphasized the involvement of the conspirators in the Dungeons & Dragons game.
- McGinniss, Joe (1991), Cruel Doubt, Simon& Schuster, ISBN 0-671-67947-3
- Myers, Caron. "Dungeons & Dragons' Murder Mastermind Out of Prison." Fox8 News.
- Cruel Doubt on The Escapist's FAQ
- The Attacks on Role-Playing Games, by Paul Cardwell, Jr., originally published in Skeptical Inquirer, 18:2, 1994 (157-165).