Lieth Von Stein

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Lieth Von Stein (sometimes spelled Leith Von Stein) (March 16, 1946 - July 25, 1988) was an American man whose murder launched a well-known trial in North Carolina.

An executive at National Spinning, a textile factory in Washington, North Carolina, Von Stein was stabbed and bludgeoned to death by James Bartlett Upchurch III as the result of a plot masterminded by his stepson Chris Pritchard, with whom Von Stein reputedly had had an antagonistic relationship. His wife, Bonnie (Pritchard's mother), was also attacked, but survived. The subsequent trial revealed that Pritchard was motivated by the potential of inheriting his stepfather's fortune, which was derived from his family's dry cleaning chain, Camel City Dry Cleaners in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.[citation needed]

The case and ensuing trial were the subject of several books and TV films. The 1991 book Cruel Doubt by Joe McGinniss was adapted for TV on May 1992 as a 2-part miniseries of the same name.[1] The 1992 book Blood Games by Jerry Bledsoe was released on TV in April 1992 under the name Honor Thy Mother.[2] The case was considered particularly lurid because of the involvement of the three conspirators with the role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons, which both films heavily emphasized.[3][4] It was noted that each TV production unethically showed either a faked cover (Honor Thy Mother) or a faked page (Cruel Doubt) of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook on camera, even though the first-edition rulebook was a widespread best-seller intimately known to millions of fans.

Upchurch was convicted of first degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill or seriously injure, conspiracy to commit murder, and burglary in the first degree. For these crimes, he was sentenced on January 30, 1990, respectively, to death, 20 years, 6 years and life. Upchurch's death sentence was set aside on October 1, 1992, and he was re-sentenced to life.[5]

Co-conspirators Pritchard and Gerald Neal Henderson, who confessed to driving Upchurch to and from the scene,[citation needed] were both convicted of murder in the second degree[citation needed] (aiding and abetting) and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill or seriously injure.[citation needed] Henderson began parole on December 11, 2000.[citation needed] It was completed on February 27, 2005, and he is a free man.[citation needed] Pritchard was paroled on June 2, 2007.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Cruel Doubt at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ Honor Thy Mother at the Internet Movie Database
  3. ^ Cruel Doubt on The Escapist's FAQ
  4. ^ The Attacks on Role-Playing Games Archived August 5, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.} by Paul Cardwell, Jr., originally published in Skeptical Inquirer, 18:2, 1994 (157-165).
  5. ^ Full Docket: State vs. Upchurch

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