• This Day in Crime History

    January 16: 1936: Serial Killer Hamilton Howard “Albert” Fish was executed in the electric chair in Sing Sing Prison. He was responsible for at least 5 murders, including 10-year-old Grace Budd whose murder he was sentenced to death for.

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This Day in History: Lieth Von Stein murder 7/25/1988 *Three young men, including his stepson Christopher Pritchard, convicted, sentenced to prison*


Leith Von Stein
Lieth Von Stein

Find-A-Grave: Leith Peter Von Stein
This Day in History
A young man turns the death of his parents into a game
The Great Roleplaying Myths
Christopher Pritchard Inmate Record
Murderpedia: Christopher Wayne Pritchard
Wikipedia: Lieth Von Stein
Wikipedia: Chris Pritchard
Wikipedia: James Upchurch
Pritchard to be paroled
Title: Dungeons & Dragons’ Murder Mastermind Out of Prison
Murderpedia: Christopher Wayne Pritchard
State of North Carolina v James Bartlett Upchurch III 1992

Blood Games
Cruel Doubt

Dark Temptations: Dungeon of Death
Cruel Doubt
Honor Thy Mother
Blood Relatives: Death is in the Heir

Christopher Pritchard – convicted, sentenced to life in prison; paroled 6/2/2007
Gerald Neal Henderson – convicted, sentenced to 40 years in prison; paroled
James Bartlett Upchurch – convicted, sentenced to death; that was overturned and he was sentenced to life; parole eligible in 2022


ChristopherPritchard prison mug

Offender Number: 0331540
Inmate Status: INACTIVE
Probation/Parole/Post Release Status: INACTIVE
Gender: MALE
Birth Date: 11/25/1968
Age: 45

Most Recent Incarceration Summary

Incarceration Status: INACTIVE
Total Incarceration Term: LIFE
Conviction Date: 01/31/1990
Projected Release Date: LIFE
Primary Crime Type: FELON
Special Characteristics: LIFE
Current Status: N/A
Admission Date: 01/31/1990
Admitting Location: POLK YI (FORMER)
Next Control Review: 05/30/1996
Custody Classification: MINIMUM 3
Next Custody Review: 06/01/2007
Current Location: LOCATION UNKNOWN
Previous Location: DAVIDSON CC
Last Movement Date: 05/31/2012


Offender Number: 0178076
Inmate Status: INACTIVE
Probation/Parole/Post Release Status: INACTIVE
Gender: MALE
Birth Date: 09/21/1968
Age: 45

Most Recent Incarceration Summary

Incarceration Status: INACTIVE
Total Incarceration Term: 40 YEARS
Conviction Date: 01/31/1990
Projected Release Date: 03/19/2006
Primary Crime Type: FELON
Special Characteristics: REGULAR
Current Status: N/A
Admission Date: 01/31/1990
Admitting Location: POLK YI (FORMER)
Next Control Review: UNKNOWN
Custody Classification: MINIMUM 3
Next Custody Review: 01/17/2001
Current Location: LOCATION UNKNOWN
Previous Location: ORANGE CC
Last Movement Date: 02/27/2005


JamesUpchurch prison mug

Offender Number: 0415745
Inmate Status: ACTIVE
Probation/Parole/Post Release Status: INACTIVE
Gender: MALE
Ethnic Group: UNKNOWN
Birth Date: 08/17/1968
Age: 45
Current Location: HYDE CI

Most Recent Incarceration Summary

Incarceration Status: ACTIVE
Total Incarceration Term: LIFE
Conviction Date: 01/30/1990
Projected Release Date: LIFE
Primary Crime Type: FELON
Special Characteristics: LIFE
Current Status: FELON
Admission Date: 01/31/1990
Admitting Location: CENTRAL PRISON
Next Control Review: UNKNOWN
Custody Classification: MEDIUM
Next Custody Review: 12/01/2014
Current Location: HYDE CI
Previous Location: POLK CI
Last Movement Date: 10/19/2011


73 Responses

  1. After reading this story I believe that they all were guilty and should have received the same punishment DEATH!

  2. I have read this book 7 times and get different things out of it each time… All three were responcible for the action they all three should pay the price…. I have always been told a life for a life or in this case a life for three lives…. The only thing is none of them actually were thinking… If they thought about it they would have realized, hey there is no way in hell im gettin by with this…

  3. I knew these people and may it just be my opinion there should have been a fourth conviction…..I myself have spent the night in the Von Stine home and there is no possible way Angela knew nothing was going on…..Why were those pants never tested????When I stayed there a night you could hear the cats from upstairs so how in the hell can you not hear somebody being beaten to death right across the hall???? I just hope she has found peace in herself while her brother and friends have been punished for their part…I personally think its unjust

  4. Please email me. I have long been interested in this case and also do not buy for a minute that Angela was innocent!!

  5. REBECCA LANGLEY…email me to discuss!!

  6. Rebecca,

    That is very interesting. I always wondered how she could not heard anything at all, even with a fan on. And I know she and Chris were close, so I would think he would have said something.

  7. I read the book also. They all did it, who are you kidding. “Moog” is delusional, and not as smart as he thinks. I agree that it it curious that Angela never heard a peep and showed no emotion.

  8. I remember this case. This happen about a 35 minutes drive from my home town. I have read about this and think angela should have been arrested also. It was aweful and I think they should of all got the same sentence. If you do an inmate search on them I can only find Chris Prichard, and James Upchurch. What happened to Neil Henderson. He drove the car that night.

  9. I can’t believe I have NEVER heard of this case. What is the name of the book? Someone help!

  10. I’m readying the book CRUEL DOUBT right now…but, had to go to GOOGLE to find out who “done it” now I’m continue reading and decide whether Angela would have known, probably she would have.

    I still don’t know what sentence they received, but, in TEXAS they would have received the death penalty, which the deserved.

  11. Linda,
    I read that book plus I lived about 30 mins from where this happened. Chris Pritchard got life in prison. But has been paroled. James Upchurch was sentence to death but was overturned and Neal Henderson is out of prison.

    Here is the link to James Upchurch
    Here is the link to Chris Pritchard
    This is no picture of Chris available since he is out on parole.

  12. Mylifeofcrime,
    Chris Pritchard has been paroled. He was paroled on June 2. I can’t believe they let him out. I wonder if he admitted to what he did. I have heard that the parole board will not let you out unless you show remorse for what you have done.

  13. Amy,

    You know, I have a couple of letters from Chris somewhere in my storage. I don’t remember now if he admitted anything or not. I am surprised he got parole however. That actually stuns me. I know Neal got out, as I got a letter from him, too (I was doing a research project on high profile cases, so I have letters from many high profile defendants, some I have posted on, too) Neal was very cautious in his letter. I guess he was afraid of what would happen when he got out of prison (publicity-wise). But that was a few years ago, and I was unable to stay in touch with him. So, I have no clue as to what he is doing nor do I remember where he moved to. I believe he was going to get married, too.

  14. Amy,

    I have updated this post. I found a couple of articles that talk about Chris’ parole. It appears that he has admitted his part. It also appears that he is living in Winston Salem, NC with his mother. I can’t find anything on Neal or Angela. But it also does look like Bonnie knows that Chris was not innocent and has forgiven him. I am sure the realization was hard on her. I do not envy her, but I admire her strength.

  15. mylifeofcrime,
    I couldnt imagine her not forgiving him. I know what he did was horrible but he is still her son. I know as a mother myself that I will always love my kids no matter what they do. Do you think Angela had anything to do with that night. I just can’t see how she didn’t being that her room was right across the hall and from my understanding, the door locks had been changed and Chris didn’t have the key. Of course this could not be true. You know how it is and how you hear so many different stories when something like this happens.

  16. mylifeofcrime,
    I have gathered quite a bit of information on this crime, and would like to address two comments. First,several people feel Angela was involved. I agree completely, and feel this to be only one example of a thoroughly botched police investigation.
    Secondly, All three of the males were guilty and sentenced; but the inequity of the sentences is simply bizarre. If, like many have stated, they all deserved the death penalty, the fact is that only one did. The other two got their stories together and stuck to them; those stories became the only evidence against Upchurch, who got got death (later overturned to life) as well as various other charges that insure he’ll stay incarcerated at least into his 60’s, and probably for life.
    If, as was also stated here, it is a Mother’s prerogative to forgive her son (and, possibly her daughter), and since the courts freed Pritchard and Henderson, should we not consider the justice of balancing the punishments?
    We will likely never know for sure who did the actual killing; ‘looking the part’, as Upchurch is usually portrayed, is simply not enough. He, too, has admitted taking part in the crime, also claims not to have struck the killing blows, and has avowed remorse. Is he less guilty? More guilty? And, finally, from the standpoint of true justice, does it matter, when the others now walk free?
    This is no longer about guilt, but about fairness.

  17. I just read the book, Blood Games, about this crime in the last few days and it was very fascinating!

    If you want to look up Neal’s address, use but use his real name Gerald N. Henderson and click on North Carolina and it comes up in Apex, NC. I looked it up on the map and it is just outside of Raleigh.

    As for Chiris’s sister, I too wondered how she could have slept through the bludgeoning and stabbing and not hear Lieth’s screams. Seemed very strange to me.

    As far as Chris’s mom forgiving him, I am also a mother and I don’t know if I could ever forgive my child who was behind a plot to kill me.

  18. if anyody knows chris and can contact him for me tell him to email me at we r old freinds and would like to talk to him. im in boston mass and lost contact thank u

  19. I got so fascinated with this case after watching the Cruel Doubt mini-series. I remember it vividly. I was taking summer classes at Marietta College in Ohio and was watching it from my apartment. After the scene where Angela (or Gwyneth if you will) was interviewed by the cops, my friend Glenn said “She did it!”I think based on the book and the movie, it couldn’t be more obvious Angela was somehow involved. Between the wet spot on her jeans and the lame explanation that the running fan kept the ice in the water from melting, I’m convinced she was in on it. She also said in the book that her reaction to the cop in her bedroom was “What the [expletive] is Danny the [expletive] doing in my room?” Any normal teenaged woman would freak out if a 20-30 year-old man, cop or not, entered her bedroom in the middle of the night. Even she knew the cop, she wouldn’t just be annoyed. I’m so glad I found this thread. Very informative. I still haven’t read Blood Games nor have I seen Honor Thy Mother. Anyone have a book or a dvd? Thanks again everyone.

  20. I am still convinced that where everyone seems to keep stating how strong Bonnie was… I feel she was involved as well as Angela. The entire rice and chicken dinner along with the blood being “gel” states that Leith had been dead hours before those boys broke in. Yet Bonnie claims that he was awake and screaming and Angela says she didn’t hear anything? So here is a scenario:
    Leith was going to leave Bonnie for another woman, taking his money with him. Bonnie then plotted with Angela and explained what was going on to her. They do not mention these plans to Chris. Angela now is supposed to seduce Upchurch and play with his game-mentality, manipulating him to believe he needed to protect the “princess” from her evil stepfather. The two females kill the stepfather in his sleep, with only Angela knowing that night the boys will “break-in” the stepfather was already dead and could not have screamed out, after the boys leave Angela goes and makes herself a drink waiting for Bonnie to bleed to death (ice cubes in the glass) unplugs the downstairs phone and then goes into the bedroom to check on the dead and dying parents. Noticing the book she rips the pages from it in hopes of framing Chris (who will already think he was guilty as Upchurch has already convinced him this was his idea by taking a statement made and running with it) I believe that was blood on Angela’s pants and that Bonnie cannot say anything agianst Angela not out of loyalty but to the fact that she will also incriminate herself in the death of Leith, she just didnt realize Angela would want her dead as well.

    any thoughts on this?

  21. Interesting, Conspiracy. Since I was introduced to this through Cruel Doubt, I haven’t considered the angle you’re taking. And your angle could very well have merit. After all, Cruel Doubt was more Bonnie’s account than was Joe McGinniss’. My only question: was there evidence of infidelity in the Von Stein marriage leading up to the attack(s)?

  22. I am sure that a big part played in this murder and assault was Angela. She was an angry child of an alcoholic family and she was angry about Lief’s tightness with money and his alcoholic behavior and her mother going along with it all and obeying Lief and his orders to discipline the kids. Angela also stood to gain half the inheritance. I think she set it up with Chris; there is evidence that Chris and Angela were very close and then after the murder, they kept their distance somewhat. I think Chris told Angela that his Dungeon and Dragon chums would be interested in acting out a scenario to gain maximum experience points. The case was bodged up by the SBI and the local plodder cops. I think that Angela waited until Lief and Bonnie went to bed, then clubbed them. This bears out the rice and chicken dinner theory and the jelling of the blood. Chris talks Upchurch and Henderson into playing the heros to rescue the “princess” from the evil monster (Lief). Angela leaves 4 pages from the book she had read at least 3 times called “A Rose in Winter”, in order to throw the police off the scent and make it look like a satanic type of killing – a bit too close to the truth. Guilty people will often trip themselves up in this way – Angela was “lucky” to get away with it. That is one big reason that she cries at the trial when Upchurch get the death sentence and Angela had controlled her emotions up to then – GUILT. Guilt at sending a framed young man to the lethal injection. The intruders entered, stabbed Lief and Bonnie and Bonnie came too at that point from the stabbing. While this was going on, Angela is drinking probably tequila, gin or vodka (note the unmelted ice cubes still in the glass on her bedroom table) and she pretends to be asleep when the police arrive, called by Bonnie, who was struggling to stay alive.

  23. Personally, I too think Angela had to have known and I actually think there’s more evidence of her being involved than James Upchurch. What proof did the police have that he was even there? Just the word of Chris Pritchard and his “genius” sidekick Neal Henderson who both were out to save their own necks. And what about the inconsistancies with their stories, how could they be considered credible? So while James Upchurch gets the death penalty (later commuted to life), Neal has been out for years and Chris is about to be parolled, where is the justice? Regardless of his guilt or innocence how could that jury give James Upchurch a death sentence, surely there’s reasonable doubt. I know he claimed to be innocent for some time and there was a website but that doesn’t seem to exist anymore so I’m wondering does anyone know for certain if he has admitted any involvement or does he still maintains his innocence? I would so love to know.

    note from blog owner
    Chris Von Stein has been paroled June 2, 2007

  24. Honor Thy Mother, a film adaptation of Blood Games, airs on Lifetime Movie Network on 6/7/08 at 10 am. This is very timely for me as I have just finished reading the book, a real page turner. If Blood Games accurately documented the trial and the sentencings, which I trust it did, then I don’t see how there could not have been a reasonable doubt. I believe that the long deliberation was a sign that some jurors weren’t sure and others were. These more certain jurors probably outnumbered the less certain ones and convinced them, after much persistence, of James’ “guilt”.

  25. The movie would be interesting (however I’m in Australia so unfortunately I won’t get to see it)…. I guess as Angela wasn’t charged with anything she’ll be seen sleeping soundly oblivious to the brutal attack across the hallway as apposed to sneaking downstairs to unlock the door to let the killers in and get a glass of iced water. Also as the story goes James will be the one and only killer instead of Neal, even though Bonnie was convinced she saw Neal standing over her that night. I read Cruel Doubt years ago and remember thinking that there was so much more to this story. Recently I discovered Blood Games, great book and much more insightful but then I just had to re-read Cruel Doubt. It’s so intriguing but the whole outcome really sucks. Chris and Neal out and about because they made deals and James not eligible for parole until 2022. I’m sure you’re right Josh about certain jurors being convinced of James’ guilt but to me that’s insane if the evidence is not there. I wouldn’t have caved.

  26. I was surfing around, looking for a picture of Bart (I always called him Bart like his mom did. He never liked it much, but we were childhood friends and he gave me a bye on that, I guess) and found this site. Bart, Neal and I grew up together in Caswell County. We played D&D together, and generally acted like your typical geek high school kids. I was a jock too, so I avoided the full fledged ‘geek’ badge of honor. We did just about every thing together from grade school on. As high school juniors and seniors, we lost some contact with Neal, since he went off to the NC School of Science and Math as I recall. Bart and I continued to have contact, but by our senior year, he had fallen in with a rougher crowd, and it wasn’t all that surprising when he was caught for breaking into our high school and stealing some computers, if I recall correctly. Quite frankly, there had always been times when I would be with Bart where he would do things that were somewhat chilling to me. It was as if Bart had a sociopathic side; unable to maintain personal or intimate relationships with people. There also seemed to be a remorseless side to him. At the same time, Bart also had a very tender side to him, which I sometimes witnessed in his interactions with his little sisters, and in the way he was very protective of a mutual friend of ours who was brilliant, a little nerdy, and black (not the greatest combination in our high school). The last time I ever saw Bart, it was the summer before we all went off to college (I went to school outside NC) and he came over to my house while my parents were away. He had a couple of his less than savory friends with him. They had been drinking, and were looking to recruit me to go to Danville, VA with them to raise a little Cain that night. All I can remember thinking was how I just wanted to get those guys out of my house. Later that night after they had left and I had gone to bed, someone came to my house and tried to break in by prying open my garage door. Bart had sticky fingers in those days, I imagine they were looking for something to steal to sell for beer or pot.

    When he went off to NCSU I thought Bart had turned things around. When I learned that he was there running around with Neal, I knew that there wasn’t going to be a whole lot of studying going on.

    A couple years later, I was doing a drill in the Navy Reserves and I called my Mom on a pay phone to check in and say hello. She asked me “Guess who is charged with first degree murder?” I knew the answer before she told me. Once I got the whole story, I was so disappointed in Bart and Neal, but at the same time, I cannot say that i was stunned or anything like that. I guess I always knew Bart would wind up doing something stupid and evil during one of his fantasies.

    I will say this… I don’t know Chris or his sister other than what I read in the books. What I DO know is that the books were so predictable to me in that I was intimately familiar with the dynamic between Bart and Neal. Many people scratch their heads when trying to figure what those two were thinking on that night. I don’t. They were so adept at detaching themselves from the reality of a situation, and replacing that reality with some kind of surreal fantasy… it does not surprise me at all. Bledsoe captured Bart and Neal almost perfectly. Bart was a sociopathic leader, Neal was the cautiously adventurous follower.

    After all these years, all I can think of is what a waste this whole episode was. What a senseless killing. What a waste of brilliance. Both Neal and Bart were intensely intellectual, but their maturity levels were so out of sync with their mental abilities. Neal could have been a brilliant engineer or mathematician. Bart’s abilities could have served him well in so many fields. They both left behind good families (mothers, fathers, siblings) who did not deserve this kind of notoriety. I also ask myself sometimes if I could have taken the same path that they did, given a few bad choices. When I do this, I realize that there really WERE fundamental differences bewteen us. The biggest differences were conscience and direction.

    So sad.

    note from blog owner
    Thank you for sharing this.

  27. Thank you for this blog. I have found it so interesting. I have always thought that Angela knew and had her mother died that night and Chris jailed, she would have kept his share for him on his release. Rebecca’s reply confirmed what I had thought – no way could Angela not have heard. Thanks Rebecca. Also have doubts as to Bonnie’s innocence in this horrible crime.

  28. I graduated in 1987 from Washington High School. Chris and I were in the same graduating class, and he sat behind me in Ms. Thompson’s French class. I also believed he dated my neighbor, but not sure on that one? Wasn’t my business..:) I saw his car there once or twice, but she was friends with his sister, so maybe it was his sister driving over there.

    I don’t know what he bacame after he went to college or how he is today, but in school he was a cute/sweet guy. He had spikey hair and some people called him Monchichi. I believe that might have been on his license plate of his car too. I can’t rememebr back that far..:)

    He wasn’t a kid that got into trouble or bothered anyone. He was quiet, sweet, and must have had decent grades to get into NCSU.

    I remember being shocked to hear that he had been a part of this because this was not his nature. It also hurt me because I thought a lot of him as a person even though we were not super close, but more classmates who had a class together.

    I remember in French class a guy was sort of rude to me and made me upset and Chris offered a few kind words to console me, so I don’t want everyone to think, that he was this monster because he wasn’t. I guess he just temporarily snapped. I am not saying what he did was right, but we don’t know his home life or what led up to such a horrific scenario.

    I am not excusing what he did, but he served his time.

    Little Washington people can be very cruel because most of them are bored to tears in that town and a lot of rumors circulate, but I feel if Angela had something to do with it she would have been convicted. Angela could have been a very sound sleeper it is possible. As for the ice in the glass, it isn’t like they lived in a house with no AC. They lived in Smallwood and it was/is one of the nicer neighborhoods in Washington.
    As for someone saying she had been close with her brother and then distanced herself afterwards maybe the poor girl was in shock. I think it would be hard to embrace someone immediately after something like this happened things take time to get over.

    WHen it happened, I remember it being rumored that Ms. Bonnie was in on it too. Can you imagine how awful of a rumor that was for this poor woman who had endured so much?

    I hope this family will be okay and Chris will go on to lead a normal happy life.

  29. One more observation on the undigested rice meal in Lief Von Stein’s stomach. It is pretty clear that he was an alcoholic. Alcohol in large quantities will slow down the digestive quanities.

    It is also likely that Angela put the sleeping tablets medication in Von Steins food that night and that would also arrest the digestion procedure. What a cock-up of an investigation.

  30. My husband picked up the book (Curel Doubt) while waiting to see his doctor. He suggested I read it (because I enjoy reading “true” stories like these). I am a psychology major and find these types of stories interesting as I try to delve into the psyche of those involved. I found the book to be fascinating. Even more important, the book leaves me with so many unanswered questions. I have read the conversations previously posted and find some of the suggestions about what may have truly taken place to be very plausible scenarios. In addition, I have enjoyed reading the thoughts of those who knew some of the people involved. Your insights have been greatly appreciated.

    I do not know if the truth will ever be known; however, this case is definitely one-of-a-kind! When I reached the part of the book (towards the end) where the sentencing phases were taking place, I found tears welling up in my own eyes…for the saddness of the whole situation…and the realization of just how confusing life can get for some individuals.

    In my opinion, drugs played a major role in the murders. Once those boys became as involved in the drug scene as they did, they were no longer in any “positive control” of their thinking processes.

    I emphatically believe that Angela was involved in this case as well. I am still very shocked that she was not pursued by the authorities. I would love to read any insights into Angela’s life from anyone who knew her.

    Also, I am curious to know if Angela ever came forth saying she had some involvement, could she still be tried? I am not sure about laws governing murder and accessories to murder. In addition, if information ever became available implicating Neal Henderson in a more “active” involvement, could he be tried on that or would this be double jeopardy?

    I would appreciate any answers to these questions.

  31. I’m no lawyer. But I suspect both Neal and Angela could be tried because there’s no statute of limitations on murder and as far as double jeopardy, neither was ever convicted of the actual murder. I think double jeopardy only exempts James Upchurch from a second conviction. But I could be wrong about all of this. 🙂

    I too appreciate the insights of those close to the situation.

  32. Josh,

    Neal WAS tried for the crime. He made a plea bargain. So he can’t be tried again. Just because his conviction was not for murder, does not mean anything. And unless they were trying Angela on a charge of murder, which not even Chris was tried on, she could not be tried, as it is past the statute of limitations.

  33. Neal henderson Has admitted PUBLICLY that he had a physical hand in the killing. But the DA already had a plea deal so he went with it. A prime example of how justice in this country is a joke. If the murderer is the first to speak, the murderer gets away with it. End of story.

  34. And that is why I do not think that they should make these deals until they have all of the facts in, unless they absolutely have to. I do know that there have been times when they had to or no one would be convicted or that the body would not be found, etc., but then the punishment should still fit the crime.

  35. How ironic, as well, that Chris Pritchard is now working with at risk youth. What is he going to teach them-patricide 101?

  36. That’s nice, so if they were at risk before, God help them now!

    Chris and Neal should still be locked up.

  37. Well, that’s very interesting, thanks for all the info. Oh yes of course Angela should be locked up too. I guess she wasn’t pursued because the police just wanted a scapegoat and James was it. They were happy just to have Neal’s version of events. It’s appalling to think Angela and Chris will eventually end up with Leith’s money afterall. And Bonnie should be ashamed of herself spending what she has on Chris. It’s such a disturbing outcome, especially since James is the only one really paying for the crime.

    SL, has James ever given his account of what really happened? His side of the story would be most interesting.

  38. Hi SL,
    OMG, you have so much interesting info! Thanks so much for taking the time to share. Yes, James/ Bart sure did plead wrong but hindsight of course as they say is a great thing and if you know you are not guilty you certainly wouldn’t want to plead it! I couldn’t believe he was found guilty and was horrified he was originally given a death sentence considering there was no evidence against him. Chris and Neal didn’t exactly get there stories straight. As for Angela and Bonnie, well almost everyone and their dog think Angela was involved and I think it’s a pity that James couldn’t have made a deal too and got her convicted for her part. Fascinating about Bonnie, her story was always suspect and she was the one who gained the most IF that is her relationship with Leith was in trouble. If not she suffered unbelievably. Yes it fits with the facts that Leith died earlier (undigested dinner and complete blood loss) and it was particularly convenient that the attack on Leith was overkill yet Bonnie wasn’t too seriously injured and was actually able to call for help. And obviously Bonnie would have been the easier target. Still I wonder could she really be so evil as to plan this by invovling her own kids? Whereas Chris planning this is easy to understand because you’d have to be seriously tripping to think you’d get away with it! Surely these boys would not have considered this if they weren’t affected by drugs. So Angela was writing to Neal after he went to prison!? Well isn’t that strange considering they claimed they had barely met and Neal was suggesting James and Angela were romantically invovled. Not that Neal could be believed, at that time he was busy blaming James for his part! So maybe it was really him and Angela!? I think it is sad that James would have been out in 3 years, especially since the others are out and not everyone was in to start with. It’s very unjust and I wish him the best… even though he hates being discussed! 🙂

  39. SL,
    Oh God, okay I get it. Must say I’m totally clueless about prison life but figured it’d be a dangerous place to be. Crime is a fascinating subject, tragic but interesting and the murder of Lieth Von Stein leaves way too many questions unanswered. I’ll email you, thanks.

  40. I have read Cruel Doubt many times and saw the movie. I’m convinced that Neal is the one who actually did the killing and Upchurch, althought not innocent, did not act alone. I’m also convinced that Angela knew about this beforehand and possibly helped to let them in the house.

    I’m frankly appalled that Chris was paroled and did not get a life sentence. He planned the murder and even drew out the map. This was a conspiracy, planned and savage. Chris should spend the rest of his life in prison and so should Neal.

    I do not feel like Bonnie had anything to do with this.

  41. Chris DID get a life sentance. He was eligble for parole after 20 years, but Bonnie/Leith’s money hired him the best attorneys’ the funds he killed for could buy, and he was put into a special early release program at the prison and paroled 3 years before he was supposed to be eligible. NC now has what they call ‘new law’. So inmates now serve all of their time. But Chris was sentanced when there was still the ‘old law’, so his life sentance really meant only 40 years, possibly out in 20, but, again, he got out in 17. Same as Neal. Sentanced to 40, eligible for release in 10 and got it. The first to talk always gets the best deal, that’s just our lovely, unfair (NON) Justice system at his best/worst. No worries. We handed his picture out to every bartender we could find in the town he lives in. He takes ONE drink of booze and he is in violation of his parole and he will be arrested. We know Neal is a serious drug user, we just need to catch him at it and he will go back, too.

  42. I knew Chris and moog from my freshman / sophmore year. I think I met Neal once. I went to summer session I and planned to go to summer session II but my money ran out. A friend of mine was heading back in the direction of my aunt and uncle in the mountains, so in 10 minutes I packed up and took off. The murders happened shortly thereafter. No one, including the school, had my aunt and uncles address. Therefor, all the authorities knew was that I existed, fell off the face of the earth and had no known address.

    Needless to say, when I got back to NCSU in the fall, there was a line of police and SBI investigators waiting to talk to me.

    I still hung out with Chris and friends for a while into my sophmore year, but Chris was a nervous wreck (wonder why) and starting carrying around a gun. I would see moog every once in a while, but by time, he was pretty much a ghost. At that point I lived across campus, so I started hanging with my friends there.

    Nobody believed he could do it, even after Neal rolled over on him.

  43. I am a fan of true crime,and just finished the book Cruel Doubt. Everyone seems to think Angela had knowledge or involvement in this crime…I’m still out on that one. But for sure there are many unanswered questions. i.e. the ice in the glass in Angela’s bedroom, the chicken and rice and the fact Angela didn’t ‘hear’ anything. Wasn’t there ground up sleeping pills in her hamburgers that Chris had made ? Maybe that’s why she was oblivious to the murder. Their unemotional reactions sure are very strange after such a horrendous, heinous murder. Boggles the mind for sure.

  44. I read the book, Cruel Doubt, and my sympathy goes out to Bonnie Von Stein. I do not think anyone should judge this woman who already has had so much tragedy in her life.

  45. Wow! It’s amazing this story is still so popular. I remember reading the book when it first came out. I was intrigued by it because I live in Danville, VA (about 10 minutes from Upchurch & Henderson’s high school.) I didn’t know these boys thank goodness. Reading everyone’s posts has made me want to pull out the book and reread it. I can’t believe that Chris and Neal are already out of prison! What is becoming of our judicial system? And yes, I believe Angela was well aware of the murder. Bonnie on the other hand, I do not believe was aware of the plans. Just thought I would add my 2 cents. ;o)

  46. haven’t read all the replies yet — but I have read both Cruel Doubt and Blood Games several times.

    Cruel Doubt seems to me very pro-Bonnie and not particularly insightful. I had many questions, most of which are stated in earlier replies, but my most nagging doubt was the conviction of J.B.Upchurch, especially the manner in which the case against him was created. When I read Blood Games, a more balanced and better researched book, my shock that Mr Upchurch was convicted made me go cold all over.

    No evidence pointed in his direction other than his relationship to Pritchard. He was targeted by the police as the probable ‘mastermind’ because he had a B&E conviction — a prior record. His ‘friends’ Pritchard and Henderson knew this as well.

    Mr Upchurch’s flighty behaviour is about what you’d expect of a drug-addled and immature person, not necessarily a killer trying to stay free.

    My main problem with the state of North Carolina’s idea of ‘justice’ is the acceptance by the trial judge of uncorroborated testimony of admitted co-conspirators.

    Other than the testimony of Pritchard and Henderson there is no evidence whatsoever that J.B.Upchurch had anything to do with the death of Mr vonStein. The evidence of the backpack is spurious — while there is clear photographic evidence that Mr Upchurch was at a family gathering on a day when Pritchard swears they were together hatching murder.

    Since the evidence (statements under oath) that Pritchard and Henderson gave were uncorroborated by physical evidence or eyewitnesses, then the admissability of their testimony should be based on their credibility.

    In a similar case (People v Sanchez) the supreme court found itself bound to recognize the finality of a trial court’s assessment of witness crediblity (in the case of co-conspirators testimony). The judge who tried J.B.Upchurch didn’t seem to assess the character of those two star witnesses at all well.

    To accept as truth the statement of Pritchard, whose victims were his own mother and stepfather and who was motivated by money; to give credence to the statement of Henderson, an admitted participant in brutal murder and assault, is not the act of a judge with anything other than a prosecutorial agenda.

    In the words of Bob Dylan

    “How can the life of such a man
    Be in the palm of some fools hand?
    To see him obviously framed
    Couldnt help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
    Where justice is a game.

    Free J.B. —

    To my knowledge, Mr. Upchurch has maintained his innocence all along. I am sincerely thankful that his sentence was commuted to life, altho with Pritchard either out or due for release and Henderson already living a free man, the injustice of Mr. Upchurch’s conviction is even more egregious.

    If you check Mr. Upchurch’s records during his lengthy incarceration you will see that he has some disciplinary actions. Please note that he has never been disciplined for any violent act. All his black marks are for drugs. If I were incarcerated for a crime I didn’t commit, I think a bit of self-medication would be tempting.


  47. Correction to my last satement, mea culpa !! he has property theft on his permanent record!

    and, for those of you who wonder about Angela sleeping thru all that noise:

    I was the same age as Angela when I slept thru a huge riot-style gangfight that raged around my home and actually up onto my front steps. People went to the hospital, my own family was yelling and screaming within six feet of my flimsy bedroom door, yet I slept on.

    almost all real crimes have strange anomalies that just don’t make sense.


  48. This is what I think…I just finished the book Cruel Doubt today. Do you remember that it was stated that Chris Pritchard was masturbating ALOT as a CHILD and was looking at pornographic magazines At 6 yrs old?!!! Then you look at the pic of him and Angela at 3 and 4 yrs old and the way he is holding her and “protecting” her. I say this humbly, but right at that point in the book, I wondered if any incest had been going on btwn the siblings. Clearly Bonnie is not likeable and very codependant. How did she not know that her son was looking at these things and masturbating constantly. Six yr. olds aren’t that good liars that you don’t see something acting itself out. But Bonnie admittedly just wasn’t personally involved with her children’s thought lives. That was clearly unfortunate. I think it is veyr clear that Angela was involved thru perhaps a loyalty to her brother that no one would ever ever know about. We just don’t know. I think she is on facebook and if it was her, her picture is her smiling and someone making devil horns behind her head and I just shuddered. She is all over the internet if you look. I also suspect that Bonnie ‘could have’ been involved in this. I am a mother also and am now raising my granddaughter due to problems my oldest daughter had. Now I forgive her utterly, but if she had plotted to kill me I would logically remain very respectful of her capability to think in very evil terms. I would not live with her. I would ONLY LIVE WITH HER IF I had been a part of the plot and KNEW that she was no more dangerous than I was. Ya know?

  49. another thought: how many times have affairs led to murder? I agree that Leith was moving towards being with another woman and that was just too much for the family. I wonder if the other woman of the letters was ever spoken to and could shed some light on what was happening btwn the two of them. When I hear “affair” I smell a rat; affairs bring evil into the house no matter what. They are an open door. Poor Leith just chose the wrong time financially to start flirting with someone else. He was a private man but he was “opening Up’ to this other woman…? I believe that it WAS a family plot as Bonnie’s supposed love for everyone and everything just doesn’t ring genuine to me. I heard someone with authority say once: If you don’t want your children to come back and kill you then LOVE THEM. But in this case I think it may very well be a family affair. You don’t just “not show emotions” ever as Bonnie kept claiming. Was she hiding something?

  50. and another thought: codependence is not love, it is an addiction to another person and trying to control their life so that you don’t have to feel bad or ashamed of them. It is the MOST SELFISH and self serving spiritual disease a person can have. I know because I am in a program to combat my own codepence. When I stopped playing my daughter’s game, she got well, when I stopped trying to control her so that I could feel ok, she actually did get recovery. ICodepence is a two part deal that has a payoff for both parties. Codependence IS NOT LOVE. I have seen alot of cases of murder that were total codependence on someone or others part: Murder is the Ultimate control over another person. I think(and I really can’t judge anyone as I know nothing) that if Bonnie had self esteem at all she would love her son but not enable him and coddle him with cars etc. BUT she is hopefully in therapy still and the therapist will handle it. I have a heart for any mixed up person who’s intentions are good but whose daily actions are in actuality are selfish and cruel as I have been there.

  51. Yes a facinating story in which all the details will ever be known. Also unless you personally knew the principal characters or visited the actua site (how thin were the walls, and what was the story on the back door?) there will be more questions than answers.

    However the main aspects of Cruel dougt:

    1) Angela —-just so much suspicion. To how could she sleep through it, the ice in her glass (and veins) The entry into the house, her “friendship (?)” with Upchurch she did not mention until long after the fact, her poly score, etc. etc.

    2) I got to believe there were alt least two people involved in the attack — the number of wounds and the two weapons. Maybe Upchurch (although the case is not rock solid) but at least one other. Henderson ?

    3) The early investigation was indeed botched. But you got to believe that if Angela was physically involved there would of been some noticibile evidence.

    4) This digestion and congealed blood thing are curious. The time lines from both Henderson and Pritchard work out to a time around 2:30 or 3. however I don’t think bonnie was involved and even if Angela was involved —- I can’t see her creating all the damage by herself.

    these are the things that keep rattling around in my mind …… that there will likely never be an answer to


    that will like ly never be

  52. Now the more I think about it and re read the posts I am starting to think that if Bonnie was so codependent then by my own assessment she would be the perfect person to be in on this. I think this will always be a very closely guarded family secret and they will not give each other up and Chris was willing to go to jail for it. Knowing he would have money to set him up for the rest of his life when he got out and that is why his mother isn’t afraid to live with him. It could be that all 3 of their lives are based on and growing out of one terrible terrible lie. Bonnie is a too good to be true personality without any evidence of strong religious belief etc. Even then, God doesn’t call us to be foolish, forgive YES, but foolish and live with the very person that tried to kill you? This is THE part of the story that makes absolutely no sense and this is what probably needs to be looked at the most now. They just know they got away with it for all intents and purposes. I can’t imagine any amount of money being worth the way their lives have been lived since the murder.

  53. I dated and married Kenyatta Upchurch, the convicted killer’s female cousin, shortly after the trial. We married right around the time that the Cruel Doubt TV movie came out. I soon found out that the Upchurch family carries a “rage” gene. No joke. Kenyatta’s father will go off on a volcanic rage at the drop of a hat. Kenyatta herself was hell to be around for three days at a time during her period. I mean, 100x worse than any PMS that you have witnessed. It is one reason that we are divorced.

    I often suspected Kenyatt in these murders. I have never told her that, because we have a son together that I am still supporting. He would be devastated. But I believe that the actual violent act of murder that is described in this case could only be performed by someone who was psyched up or goaded into a rage by his or her friends. If that is the case, then James Upchurch probably carries that trait or gene. Incredible rage enought to barge into a person’s bedroom while they are sleeping and slash them to shreds. The killer is described as short and bushy-haired. Kenyatta is short and bushy-haired. James is tall.

    Do I really think that my ex-wife was the actual killer of Mr. Von Stein? I am 60% certain. Just tonight, I got off the phone with her after checking on my son. She is re-married, but something she said haunted me: “We were just sitting around thinking about how nice it would be to independently wealthy.” That was the beginning of the Cruel Doubt story, when Neal, James, and Chris were “just sitting around,” talking about how to come into wealth.

    Oh, well, water under the bridge; but why Kenyatta was never investigated for her role is still a mystery to me. They were all thick as thieves from what she told me.

    And no, this is not revenge against “the ex” so I do not want to hear a bunch of crap about that. Thank you.

  54. did you all realize that the backpack that is described in the book “Blood Games” – the one found at the crime scene – was later positively identified as Bart’s? There was no evidence directly linking him to it during the trial – but years later, an old teacher of his from high school sent a video tape that had it at on his person. The faded green one. This guy is so clearly guilty – the speculated involvement of others not convicted is hilarious. These BOYS were not rocket scientists, just wasted, unsocialized losers with vastly untapped, and most likely unavailable, potential.
    AND to Kenyatta’s ex-husband – WHY in the world would she have been involved – and HOW could it not have come out AT ALL in the trial?? She admitted many times to her anger issues. Uncontrollable PMS is vastly different from murder.

  55. I am curious, why are none of you brave enough to leave your real name with your ‘daring’ replies? I implicate my ex-wife, someone else calls her an eternal skank, all of you have your bedazzling theories; yet none of you have the guts to say whom you are. Why is that?

  56. because this entire blog has nothing to do with who WE are – it’s designed for conversation and speculation about true crime and the theories that surround them. And by the way – my real name is Kate.

  57. Does anybody know where Angela is?

  58. I just happened to pass by a bargain book shop like 4 days ago and i saw this book “cruel doubt” by joe mcginniss and until now im still reading the book… i never really thought it was real until i search about this story on the internet…
    i feels so sorry for mrs. von stein and for the people who are affected, i am from the philippines and there are so many heinous crimes here as well and i believe all over the world causing too much wrath and heart aches … i just believe what Dr. Royal the psychiatrist said, that there is a good side in every person, and it’s most apparent with people who are happy… I guess it all boils down to getting what we want and to feeling satisfied… but we will never really realize satisfaction with one thing if we don’t have it yet… so after reading some chapters every night, i ask my self , what makes me really happy…. and ask my self if again, do i have it now ??? and i said yes, i have them now…. and will always be in my heart—my family and loved ones…

  59. Angela lives in Greensboro, NC with her girlfriend of 16 years.

  60. What about her girlfriend in Kentucky?

  61. I knew these guys in 88/89 at NCSU. In a nutshell, Upchurch was decent….the others not so much. Don’t know much about the case, but I do know a little about the comings and goings of these fellas back then. Probably nothing that hasn’t already been discussed. Let me know if I can help.

  62. fyi

    On Sept 7th at 8pm (90 minutes before his first post here), on another website Kenneth Gardner posted this:

    Kenneth Gardner says:
    My name is Kenneth Gardner. I dated and married Kenyatta Upchurch, the convicted killer’s female cousin, just after the trial. I can tell you that Joe McGinness interviewed everyone, including Kenyatta, thoroughly. She was visiting Neal Henderson regulary in prison when we first met, and stopped shortly thereafter. She told me all about the case, and even she is not sure who the actual killer is. How about that?

    Kenyatta and I had a child together, and divorced years ago. However, we remain friends to this day. She thought that Joe McGinnis was a gentleman about the entire matter, and very diligent in hs account of it

    Slightly different tone than the one he took an hour later when he accused his wife of being the actual killer. Just thought it was worth mentioning…..

  63. I am part of Bonnie’s family. Do any of you realize that Bonnie almost died. I saw her in the hospital after the attack, she was stabbed with a collasped lung, and had three holes in her head where she was beaten with a base ball bat. If you aren’t involved, don’t make up your own stories.

  64. I am also a part of Bonnies family. I was part of this family when this senseless crime happened. We were all in shock. I was a part of this family when Chris was arrested. We were all in shock. I was a part of this family when Chris was convicted. We were all in shock. I was part of this family when Chris was released. We were all happy. I was a part of this family when I found this site. We ARE all in shock.Shocked that some dumb bitch that dont know her butt hole from a hole in the ground would start some stupid site just to bring up bad memories and spread her stupidity to people who, for the most part, dont have a clue as to what really happened. If you are not in THIS family, then keep your snotty nose out of OUR family bussiness. Thank you and screw off…

  65. OMG Chris’s family! Now I am in shock. Are you forgetting THE main factor of this senseless crime is that Chris – YOUR family member was the reason this crime happened at all and that the real victim was Lieth Von Stein. And who got his money? YOUR family member Bonnie and subsequently her murder-planning son Chris. You may be happy Chris was released after planning his mother and stepdad’s murders but I doubt the family of Lieth Von Stein would feel the same way, afterall THEIR family member is dead because of YOUR family member! You must be so proud.

  66. We are proud. As for Leigh’s family, we are sorry and they know that. Think about this, if your family member was driving under the influence and had a wreck and killed someone, did there time in jail, got out of jail and weny on with thier life, would you love them any less? I know that you are saying “thats not the same thing” but it is. They went out drinking and choose to drive. They may not have planned to kill someone but they did. Well the simularity is this. Chris was under the influence. Under the influence of drugs. He didnt plan to have someone killed while he was sober, he did it while he was doing drugs. So as for us, yes we are still proud of him and westill love him. I pray that your family is always on the straight and narrow so you never have to live the hell that we have. In case it does happen, then you will understand.

  67. You’re right I don’t understand the hell Chris has put his family through and god forbid I wouldn’t want to find out.
    But my point was that Chris and Chris alone has brought this on himself and his family. Lieth Von Stein is THE victim of Chris’s drug induced plan. You can’t blame Bonnie for having this blog of crime or everyone visiting here with their opinions. Chris chose to do drugs and therefore chose the consequences, yes just like a drunk driver. I understand Chris’s family love him still, I get that but your anger should be towards him not people here. Personally I think Chris and Neal should be still locked up, Lieth is still dead and James Upchurch is the only one still in prison really paying the penalty for Chris’s plan.

    RIP Lieth Von Stein

  68. Hi I’m in South Africa – just saw this site after our cable TV aired a hour feature on this murder. Horrific. I came on the ‘Net and found this site. Interesting stuff. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have posted – until I reached the last few posts.

    Elton: what if Leith, under the influence, had killed Chris with a baseball bat? Would you be so forgiving due to his intoxication and the brutal murder of your close relative? Would you be “proud” if he was released early?

    The tension between the two was widely known. The DIFFERENCE is that Chris eventually did something too horrible about it. Something Leith never saw coming.

    How DARE Chris be SO arrogant and smug to leave prison (a few decades too early in my opinion) by obtaining his new-found freedom via his victim’s own money? I think that is vile. So – seems he eventually DID get “booty” by killing the man who brought Bonnie’s children into his home; brought them up, fed, clothed and educated them – only for these two selfish twits to despise the man because he set parameters? Then – coldly, cruelly and in a drugged, sick, rampant rage – Chris designs Leith’s future to be cut short in a bloodbath.

    Oh my, OH MY. How desperately callous you appear to be. Such as “Poor Chris – he’s the victim for drugging up and this happening. We’ll just give him a car and some land and a bunch of money his step-dad earned and a band-aid for his naughty incident. He’ll be fine because we’re so proud of him”.

    Are you serious? Good grief. You seem very happy to have SO much to be proud about. Well get this: hundreds of thousands more people are in STILL IN SHOCK.

    And now you’re all very UNHAPPY someone wrote this blog. Seems “control” runs in Chris and his family. Would be nice for it to “go away”. But it won’t. Not now, not ever. These kids were spoiled brats whose hatred, laziness, rebelliousness and BAD HABITS killed a man who nurtured them. What he did is bad news and he hardly got to pay. Instead he got off and eventually got out. Despicable, in my opinion (as is this entire post). So what about all the other substance related murderers? Want them all out too?


    Hmmph! “poor Chris”? Get real, will you.

  69. All of the above is my own opinion from reading about this over last couple days. People seem to puull Bonnie into this. Well – here’s a very different thought of mine:

    If my son did this to me and my husband and then was freed, I’d be damn scared he intended to “finish that which was incomplete”. I’d be scared out of my wits – and if it meant paying out to quell his internal rage and resent, well, maybe I would buy a car, some land and give him some money. Just to live; else I MAY [note, may] just be looking over my shoulder and unable to sleep at night.

    Bonnie was fairly badly hurt and may have died. Her OWN flesh and blood? I think Chris wanted the money before Leith was no longer “family”. This was not a drugged up joyride-gone-bad. This was planned for a long time, IMO. The map and enlisting of friends to “help out” is clear, positive and eternally damning evidence of that.

    OK. Rant over. Sheeeshz … I cannot believe how immensely shocked I was at Elton’s tirade of a “family-unhappy”. Sheer defiance at it’s height, if ever I read or heard anything that I wouldn’t be surprised if the poster was CP himself. Phew. Anyway, I’m going back to the beach tomorrow. Happy 2009 to y’all. God Bless America.

  70. Go to this website and see an interview with Chris and Bonnie the day the scum was released from Prison. They say prison justice is fair payback…I guess that’s why Chris was raped in Prison. I have known Chris since 1988 at NCSU…he was a smart mouthed lying weasel even then. He is still the liar he was back then…and there is no way Bonnie did not help him plan this. her injuries were NOT life threatening and she could NOT have died from them. Henderson did not try to kill Bonnie very hard, now did he??? She’s as guilty as Chris and Angela. Watch them both be interviewed..if you can stand to watch smugness at it’s core…;jsessionid=E4278FC51220FA1EAA4919CD16FDB4BF?contentId=3396004&version=5&locale=EN-US&layoutCode=TSTY&pageId=1.1.1&sflg=1

  71. First off, I am NOT a relation to Neal Henderson. Secondly,I have read the book numerous times and one thing keeps bugging me…the description of Bonnie’s attacker & how it did not match up with James Upchurch, but in fact looked a heck of alot like Neal Henderson. So much like him that she had an anxiety attack and couldn’t be in the same room as him…

  72. I have read the book cruel doubt and find it hard it believe that the case is wrapped up. The undigested food, Angela sleeping through it all, conflicting statements, the build of the assailant(short neck), every1 saying that Upchurch was a loving guy and Dr Hudson saying that there were probably two attackers.

    How do you explain it all? There is one more person…
    That much is clear…

  73. reading cruel doubt you can tell is kinda of rubbish so unlike fatal vision here we have the writer almost being used to cover up and focus on the tragedy rather than make investigation obviously the mother wish anyway the daughter is def guilty not only 1 left unharmed 2/ shows no surprise or any feeling seems like having mental issues and hating her mom 3 suspicious pants 4 unmelted ice
    5 never heard screams or anything
    the whole thing is unconvincing lots of inconsistencies

    its possible the other 2 made up a collab story and some stuff still doesnt make sense

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