DATELINE MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. (UPI) October 10, 1989 TIME 1546pd CYCLE bc A convicted murder
DATELINE: MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. (UPI) October 10, 1989
TIME: 15:46pd CYCLE: bc
A convicted murderer serving a life sentence in the West Virginia
Penitentiary charged in a lawsuit that the state is denying him the right
to practice his religion Satanism.
Kenneth Chance, of Bel Air, Md., said other types of religion are
encouraged at the prison and he is suffering mental anguish because the
warden will not allow him to practice Satanism.
Chance filed suit recently in Marshall County Circuit Court against
Warden Carl Legursky and Corrections Commissioner Ronald Gregory. The suit
asks for punitive damages of $50,000 and compensatory damages of $25,000.
Assistant Attorney General Rita Stuart said Tuesday that among Chance's
demands are a black hooded robe, candles, a chalice and a darkened room
where guards would be prohibited from peeking.
"It is one man's choice and he can believe whatever he wants," Stuart
said. "The outer trappings and the way he chooses to practice what he
believes may not be allowed if there is a risk to the institution.
"They sound real innocent at first blush, but if you look at them
through the eyes of a correctional officer it takes on a different
Circuit Judge Steven Narick continued the case until Oct. 6 to allow
time for Legursky and Gregory to respond to the charges because Chance's
original complaint was brought against the men who held those positions
under the previous administration.
Chance is serving a life plus 30 years sentence, meaning he has no
chance of parole, for the 1983 robbery and murder of Wayne Erdman, a
22-year-old forestry student at West Virginia University.
Prosecutors said Chance and a co-defendant, Edward Watkins, flagged
down Erdman in Coopers Rock State Forest on the pretext that they were
having engine trouble with a van.
Watkins pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 5
to 18 years after agreeing to testify against Chance.
Corrections Commissioner Ron Gregory said the administration has tried
to accomodate Chance and legal complaints such as his are common.
"Listen, I've seen where they have lawsuits for wanting pizza for
communion," Gregory said Tuesday. "Where does it end?"
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank