An episode of 'City Confidential' that aired on the Arts and Entertainment Network on Wednesday, October 3, 2001 featured an hour-long story on the murder of Lieth Von Stein in Washington, North Carolina in 1988 by his stepson and two accomplices, implicitly connecting the murder to Dungeons and Dragons numerous times throughout the piece. The connection began with the program listings, which read, 'A college student living in a fantasy world and obsessed with the game Dungeons and Dragons is charged with the brutal murder....' The association continued during the opening 'tease' for the program, which flashed the headline, 'Suspects Tied to Dungeons and Dragons', and continued throughout the show.
The story began with background on the small town of Washington and the Von Stein family, which included stepson Chris Pritchard, who was a teenager when the family moved to Washington. The crime was committed after Pritchard left for college at North Carolina State University in nearby Raleigh. During his freshman year, according to the story, Pritchard became 'obsessed' with Dungeons and Dragons, spending 'all of his waking hours doing drugs and playing' the game in the steam tunnels that ran under the campus.
The piece was apparently heavily based on Blood Games, a now out-of-print account of the murder by author James Bledsoe. Bledsoe described players of D&D for the show. 'You don't find the high school football heroes, anybody like that, the good-looking guys,' he said. 'What you find playing D&D are the really smart kids, who are very insecure, or not very popular.'
Connections between a D&D storyline and the murder plot (kill the 'overlord' and get his riches) are made, and the narrator refers to the young man (a friend of Pritchard's) who actually stabbed and bludgeoned Von Stein to death as a 'drugged-out dungeonmaster.' No evidence is cited that actually connects the crime to playing the game. Instead, the show uses associations to imply a connection that fits with popular myths (steam tunnels, etc.) that viewers may have heard before.
City Confidential is a four-year-old A&E reality show that is based on the idea that, 'There's a dark side lurking in every American city, and City Confidential takes viewers on an insider tour....City Confidential explores these real-life mysteries to uncover the bizarre, interesting, funny, and tragic elements.'
While it's unlikely that the show was seen in very many households, it's part of the undercurrent of anti-RPG sentiment out there (see 'Monterey News Story Ties RPGs to Assault' and 'Jack Chick Takes on Games Again') of which retailers should be aware. GAMA, the game manufacturer's association, has excellent resources for any retailers confronted with a local media or other situation involving RPGs, and they can be found through the GAMA website at www.GAMA.org.