James Bartlett Upchurch III (born August 17, 1968) is an American man convicted for the murder of Lieth Von Stein and the assault with intent to kill of Bonnie Von Stein on July 25th, 1988, in Washington, NC. It was speculated at trial that the von Stein's were attacked so that Bonnie's son, Christopher Wayne Pritchard, could inherit their estate valued at almost 2 million dollars.
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. He will not be eligible for parole until 2022.
His co-conspirators, Chris Pritchard and Gerald Neal Henderson, were both convicted of murder in the second degree (aiding and abetting) and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill or seriously injure. Henderson began parole on December 11, 2000. It was completed on February 27, 2005, and he is a free man. Pritchard was paroled on June 2, 2007.
James Bartlett Upchurch III was born and raised in Caswell County, North Carolina. He is the first son of Joanne Ensley Upchurch (deceased) and James Bartlett Upchurch II. He has one brother, Emory, and two sisters, Carrie and Alexandra.
Two books were written about this case: Joe McGinniss' Cruel Doubt (1991) and Jerry Bledsoe's Blood Games (1992). Both were made into TV movies. The miniseries Cruel Doubt was released in May 1992. The adaptation of Bledsoe's book, Honor Thy Mother, aired in April 1992.
James B. Upchurch III