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Convicted killer changes name, seeks parole

SoVaNow.com / July 30, 2014
In November 1994, Stuart Douglas Duke Jr. of Bracey was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for the brutal slaying of Kenneth Via. News reports from the day tell of the victim being stabbed 131 times before his body was dumped in Lake Gaston. The slaying took place at the Tailrace Park below John H. Kerr Dam near Boydton.

Fast forward twenty years and Duke, now known as Puñalero Dancingbuck, is being considered for parole, which was allowed by Virginia law at the time he was sentenced. He is currently housed at the Sussex II State Prison in Waverly.

There is little information to be found on Stuart Duke or Puñalero Dancingbuck in the ensuing years, aside from a 2009 filing with the Wise County Circuit Court where he applied for a legal name change – citing religious and cultural freedoms of Chiricahua Apache.

The Chiricahua Apache were one of several bands of native Americans living in southwestern United States when the Europeans first came to the area. Today there are two recognized tribes, one in Apache, Oklahoma and the other in Rudioso, N.M..

At the time he requested his name change, Duke was an inmate at Wallens Ridge State Prison in Wise County.

It is unclear when or why he was moved to Sussex II State Prison in Waverly. However, Wallens Ridge State Prison is a Supermax, and Sussex II State Prison is less restrictive. It is a Level 4 prison that offers educational and vocational training opportunities to inmates as well as re-entry to offenders who qualify. Inmates at Sussex II cannot have had any disruptive behavior in the 24 months prior to transferring into that facility, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections website.

Still, on May 15, the parole board in Virginia denied parole to Dancingbuck citing “all of the offenders records,” and a “history of violence that indicates serious risk to the community.” The parole board also said, “Release at this time would diminish the seriousness of the crime, and the serious nature and circumstances of the offense.”

Duke was convicted of first degree murder and robbery. He purportedly stabbed his victim, Kenneth Via several times before dumping his body in the deepest part of Lake Gaston and stealing Via’s fishing Tackle. The conviction was based on circumstantial evidence. There were no fingerprints, blood or forensic evidence to link Duke to Via’s death.

This is the first, but not the last time Stuart Duke/Puñalero Dancingbuck could face the parole board. Because he was convicted in 1994, before Virginia’s General Assembly eliminated prisoner parole in 1995, the parole board has the discretion to review Dancingbuck’s case and conduct periodically. The regularity of these reviews is at the discretion of the board, as is the decision to release or deny the parole of Dancingbuck.

Each time the parole board reviews Dancingbuck’s case, Kenneth Via’s family – because they are considered crime victims - has the right to share their views with the parole board. According to the parole board’s official website, these confidential statements are studied and weighed during the review process.

Throughout his trial, at which he was defended by Richmond’s legendary criminal defense attorney, Michael “Magic Mike” Morchower, Duke/Dancingbuck professed his innocence, claiming he was framed. In 2007, when he petitioned the Wise County Circuit Court for a name change, Dancingbuck said he was not only innocent, but that he was framed by investigators who planted evidence in his house and later used it against him at trial. He also claimed the commonwealth attorney who prosecuted the case was aware of the fraud perpetrated against him.

Calls were made to Morchower’s former law firm seeking comment, but the Sun was told that Morchower was retired and his waning health prevented him from commenting on the case.

These days, Dancingbuck is represented by attorney Brent Jackson of Richmond. It is unknown if Jackson is seeking to secure an appeal or parole for Dancingbuck, or is representing him in some other capacity. Jackson’s paralegal, Tina Glassmeck, cites client confidentiality as the basis for not discussing the nature of the relationship between the two men.

There is the possibility that Dancingbuck is pursuing a civil case against people whom he claims defrauded him and his mother. In the name change petition affidavit Duke filed with the Wise County Circuit Court in October 2009, he named several people who either stole his identify or swindled him and his mother, Dorothy Louise Hofler Duke of money and property. In the affidavit filed with the Court, he identified these people by name, address, phone number, and in one case by blood type.

For now, Puñacero Dancingbuck remains an inmate at the Sussex II State Prison. It appears though, that we have not heard the last of Stuart Duke/Puñacero Dancingbuck.

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So, he changed his name to something that loosely translates to a seller of knives. He stabbed somebody...131 TIMES. Then, changes his name to this as if he is proud of what he did, and seeks parole. I'm not a genius by any means, but common sense is telling me that paroling him is probably not a really good idea.


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