An extraordinarily good book about the senseless murder of a corporate executive. The murderers were so bumbling as to border on the absurd yet managed to avoid arrest for nearly a year while hiding in plain sight. Also very sobering for anyone with kids in college!
On the surface this is an account of the plot conceived by Chris Pritchard to murder his mother and stepfather, Bonnie and Lieth Von Stein, to inherit a large sum of money; the crime involved two of his friends, James Upchurch, the actual killer of the stepfather and wounder of the mother, and Neal Henderson, the driver of the car which took them to the Von Stein home in Washington, N.C., on July 25, 1988. All three, from middle-class families, were college students of exceptionally high intelligence. They were also players of Dungeons and Dragons, a game which, according to Bledsoe, teaches the philosophy of selfishness. The book is far more than a true-crime study: it is a devastating and profounly disturbing portrait of a certain kind of family life. Here people marry casually, have children, move on to another incompatible marriage. The children of these broken homes are adversely affected, often find school no challenge and squander their youth on addiction, whether to alcohol, drugs, sex or fantasy games, until the groundwork is laid for tragedy. Bledsoe ( Bitter Blood ) brilliantly points up the terrible waste of human potential.
On July 25, 1988, in the early morning hours, the Von Stein house in Washington, North Carolina was invaded and the Von Steins brutally attacked. Lieth was murdered, and Bonnie, severely injured, barely survived. Their son Chris was away at college, but suspicion quickly focused on him and his friends. Chris, a very bright but totally unmotivated student, had become immersed in a world of drugs, alcohol, and the game Dungeons and Dragons. With a tenuous grasp on reality, and perhaps playing out a version of Dungeons and Dragons, he had convinced two friends, Neal Henderson and James Upchurch III, to kill his parents so that he could claim his very sizable inheritance. Ultimately, Henderson confessed. All three young men are now in prison, with Upchurch on death row. Although well written, this book is about a third too long, with too much emphasis on Upchurch's attempts to evade the police. Still, it makes a worthwhile addition to true crime collections.
This was a great Summertime read. I'm from Durham where NCSSM is located. NCSU/Raleigh is 20 min E, UNC-CH 20 min W. The time frame for this book is the mid to late 1980's, early 1990's. I couldn't put this book down. It was so cool to read about things that went down where I live, places I recognize.
Amanda F. (aafolk) reviewed Blood Games: A True Account of Family Murder on
An absolutely fascinating story. I think Jerry Bledsoe is the best true crime writer that I have ever read. He pulls together all of the threads of these horrific North Carolina crimes in a way that is spellbinding. I keep giving away my copies of his books and having to order new ones from PBS!