ray belknap

On 23 Dec. 1985 18-year-old Ray Belknap (left) and 20-year-old James Vance (right) drank a 12-pack of beer, got high and listened to the Judas Priest album Stained Class (1978) and then took a 12-gauge shotgun to a church playground and decided to kill themselves.

Vance shot himself first and died instantly, but Vance survived his attempt and suffered severe facial injuries (almost half his face was blown off) from the attempt. Questioned by police after his suicide attempt, Vance drew “LIFE SUCKS” with his finger. He died on 2 Dec. 1988 from a massive methadone overdose.

In the summer of 1990, the parents of Belknap and Vance brought Judas Priest to trial for the deaths of their sons, claiming that subliminal messages placed backwards in the songs caused their sons to commit suicide.

The lawyers claimed that the Stained Class album contained messages of “Try suicide,” “suicide is in” and “do it” (which lawyers claimed can be heard 7 times) and asked for $6.2 million in damages ($5 million for the Vance family and $1.5 for the Belknaps).

The trial lasted 3 weeks but was dismissed, with the judge ruling that the subliminal messages occurred accidentally and the band could not be held responsible.