Timeline of the Haysom / Soering Case
August 25, 1984 -- Elizabeth R. Haysom (age 20) and Jens Soering (age 18) enter the University of Virginia as freshman honors students.
December 1984 -- Elizabeth and Jens fall in love.
February 1985 -- Jens has lunch with Derek and Nancy Haysom, his only meeting with Elizabeth's parents.
March 30, 1985 -- Derek and Nancy are killed in their retirement cottage in Bedford County.
March 31, 1985 -- A few hours later, Elizabeth confesses to Jens that she killed her parents while under the influence of drugs. She claims they sexually abused her and expresses great fear of being executed. To save Elizabeth's life, Jens promises to "take the rap" for her if arrested. Jens' father is a mid-level German consular official (Vice-Consul at the Consulate General in Detroit), so Jens believes he is protected by a form of diplomatic immunity that limits his punishment to 10 years in a German youth prison. For the rest of the night, Elizabeth and Jens rehearse his false confession.
April 3, 1985 -- Nancy's best friend, Annie Massie, discovers the bodies.
April 1985 -- The Bedford County Sheriff's Department issues an A.P.B. looking for two suspects armed with a buck-type knife.
April 8, 1985 -- Bedford County Sheriff' s Deputy C.L. Baker files a report stating that a bloody sneaker print at the crime scene was made by "a woman or a small man or boy." (Jens is average-sized at 5'10".) Click here to read the report.
June 7, 1985 -- Bureau of Forensic Sciences analyst Rick P. Johnson files a Certificate of Analysis stating that a bloody sock print at the crime scene "corresponds to a size 6 ½ to 7 ½ woman's shoe or a size 5 to 6 man's shoe." (Later, police learn that Jens has a size 8 ½ to 9 foot.) Click here to read the report.
July 2, 1985 -- Bureau of Forensic Sciences analyst Robin L. Young files a Certificate of Analysis stating that Elizabeth's fingerprints are present on an Absolute Vodka bottle sitting on top of the liquor cabinet in the living room, directly across from Derek's body. (Both Derek and Nancy have blood alcohol levels of .22, more than twice the 1985 drunk driving limit.) Click here to read the report, and click here to see a crime scene sketch and photo of the bottle in relation to Derek. Please note "Item 17LR" in both -- the bottle. In the photograph, the Absolute Vodka bottle can be seen on top of the liquor cabinet, just to the left of the lampshade in the foreground.
August 12, 1985 -- Bureau of Forensic Sciences analyst Mary Jane Burton files a Certificate of Analysis stating that all four blood groups are present at the crime scene: the victims' A and AB, as well as B and O. (The samples of B and O are too small to be subtyped. Elizabeth has type B, as do 10% of the population; Jens has type 0, as do 43% of the population.) Click here to read the report. The blood typing information is on the tables at the back of the report.
October 12 and 13, 1985 -- Elizabeth and Jens flee the United States for Europe.
April 30, 1986 -- Elizabeth and Jens are arrested in London, England, on check fraud charges.
June 5 to 8, 1986 -- Elizabeth and Jens are interrogated in London about the American murders by a joint team of American and British investigators. Elizabeth is allowed access to her attorney, but Jens is not. (The police station log book states that Jens is "to be held incommunicado." No such instruction is given for Elizabeth.) Click here to read an affidavit by the British attorney Keith Barker, and click here to see the first page of the police station log book with the "to be held incommunicado" instruction.
June 7, 1986 -- In a tape recorded interrogation, Jens tells investigators that he is willing to plead guilty to a crime he did not commit: "I can see it happening, yes. I think it is a possibility. I think it happens in real life, okay." Click here to read the interrogation transcript.
June 8, 1986 -- Both Elizabeth and Jens confess. Elizabeth's confession is brief, and investigators allow her to explain it away as a "facetious" joke. Jens' confession is much longer and more specific, but he gets several major details wrong -- including the clothing of one victim and the location of another victim. Click here to read Elizabeth's brief confession, and click here to read the full text of Jens' lengthy confession (from Chapter 9 of the English-language version of "Zweimal lebenslänglich", published by Droemer/Knaur in 2016).
August 24, 1987 -- Having waived extradition to America, Elizabeth pleads guilty to two counts of first degree murder "as an accessory before the fact."
October 6, 1987 -- Elizabeth is sentenced to two terms of 45 years imprisonment, to be served consecutively.
August 1, 1989 -- The British government agrees to extradite Jens only on the condition that the death penalty is not carried out.
January 12, 1990 -- Jens is extradited to America, and police discover that his foot is half an inch longer than the sock print at the crime scene. So the prosecution decides not to use the state lab's analyst Rick P. Johnson for Jens' trial (see entry for June 7, 1985, above), but instead to use freelancer Robert Hallett, a former F.B.I. lab tech (not Special Agent) who had worked on tire and belt impressions. Click here to read Hallett's testimony at Jens' trial.
June 21, 1990 -- After a three-week trial, a jury convicts Jens of two counts of first degree murder. In a post-trial interview with the "University Journal," juror Jake Bibb says that the jury was split 6-6 when deliberations began. They only decided to convict after reviewing Hallett's testimony and exhibits. Click here to read Jake Bibb's affidavit.
September 4, 1990 -- Jens is sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment, to be served consecutively.
December 9 and 10, 1996 -- An evidentiary hearing is held concerning the prosecution's failure to inform the defense about alternate suspects. A few days after the Haysom murders, two drifters are stopped and searched on the road from the Haysom residence to Roanoke. They are carrying a buck-type knife. Less than a week later, the drifters use another knife to murder a homeless man in Roanoke. Click here to read an article, and click here to read an expert affidavit.
March 2009 -- The Virginia Law Review publishes "Invalid Forensic Science Testimony and Wrongful Convictions" by Brandon Garrett and Peter Neufeld, which soon becomes the landmark study in this field. On pages 71 and 72 the authors reveal that Robert Hallett gave misleading testimony about a shoe print in the trial of Charles Fain. He spent 18 years on Idaho's death row before being exonerated through DNA testing. Click here to read the relevant pages of the law review article.
September 24, 2009 -- Department of Forensic Sciences analyst Shelley S. Edler releases a Certificate of Analysis under the Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program. Forty-two blood samples from the Haysom crime scene are tested. Thirty-one are too small or too degraded to yield results. The remaining eleven samples are tested successfully, and both Jens and Elizabeth are eliminated as possible contributors. Click here to read the report.
March 21, 2011 -- Bedford County resident Tony Buchanan gives a sworn and video-recorded statement about an alternate suspect. Approximately two months after the murders, a young couple brings a car to his auto repair shop. The woman is definitely Elizabeth Haysom, and the man is definitely not Jens Soering. Inside the car is a large quantity of dried blood and a blood-stained hunting knife. Click here to read an article about Tony Buchanan's statement.
June 2011 -- The current lead investigator on the Haysom case, Ricky Gardner, gives an interview to the German television program "ZDF Zoom" in which he says that the defense's criticism of the sock print evidence used at Jens' trial is "absolutely right." Click here to watch the Ricky Gardner interview.
June 24, 2016 -- The documentary film "The Promise" (later called "Killing for Love" in English-speaking countries) premieres at the Munich Film Festival. It features the original lead investigator in the Haysom/Soering case, Chuck Reid, discussing a crime scene profile produced by F.B.I. Special Agent Ed Sulzbach that the prosecution suppressed for 27 years. Click here to visit the movie's Web site.
July 21 , 2016 -- After a five-month review and analysis, Dr. Andrew Griffiths (University of Portsmouth, U.K.) submits his report on Jens' confession of June 8, 1986. He finds the confession to be "unreliable," due to the methods employed (e.g., denial of access to a lawyer) and the content (e.g., discrepancies between the statement and the crime scene).
July 26-29, 2016 -- Department of Forensic Sciences analyst Shelley S. Edler confirms that two of the eleven blood samples that she successfully DNA tested in 2009 – items 2FE and 6FE – were of the blood type 0. This can be verified by cross-checking page 3 of her DNA test report against pages 10 and 11 of the serology report of August 12, 1985. The two victims were blood types A and AB, so the type 0 blood at the crime scene has to be the killer's. And according to Ms. Edler, Jens Soering is definitively excluded by DNA as a possible source of the two type 0 samples 2FE and 6FE. Click on the entries for August 12, 1985 (click here), and September 24, 2009 (click here), to read the two lab reports.
August 24, 2016 -- Jens's attorney Steven D. Rosenfield submits a pardon petition to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.
October 27, 2016 -- Department of Forensic Sciences analyst Shelley S. Edler confirms that two of the blood samples that she DNA tested in 2009 -- Items 23K Stain#1 and 7FE Stain#1 -- were made by a man with type AB blood. Derek Haysom could not have left these two samples because he has type A blood. Nancy Haysom could not have left them because she is a woman. Jens Soering could not have left them because he has type 0 blood. Elizabeth Haysom could not have left them because she is a woman with type B blood. Therefore, there was a second unknown perpetrator at the crime scene who was injured, leaving 23K#1 and 7FE#1. This perpetrator is male and has type AB blood.
November 16, 2016 -- The original lead investigator in the Haysom/Soering case, Chuck Reid, writes Governor Terence M. McAuliffe a letter to ask that Jens be granted a pardon because he is innocent. With his letter, Mr. Reid sends the Governor a document he recently discovered in his personal files: a letter from former Commonwealth's Attorney James Updike, dated June 18, 1985, that refers to the F.B.I. crime scene profile and its conclusion. This letter proves that Mr. Gardner's repeated denials of the existence of the crime scene profile are untrue -- see the entry for June 24, 2016, above.
January 2017 -- Lantern Books releases "A Far, Far Better Thing -- Did a Fatal Attraction Lead to a Wrongful Conviction?", by Jens Soering and Bill Sizemore, with a Foreword by Martin Sheen. (Mr. Sheen has been in regular contact with Jens since 2006.) In this true crime book, Jens tells the story of the tragic events of 1986-1990, while Pulitzer Prize-nominated reporter Bill Sizemore examines the new evidence and re-interviews the major figures.
March 30, 2017 -- The Virginia Parole Board denies Jens' parole for the 12th time.
May 3, 2017 -- Albemarle County Sheriff J.E. "Chip" Harding releases a 19-page report on his re-investigation of the Haysom murders (click here). After spending more than 200 hours on the case, he concluded that the evidence supports Jens Soering's innocence and asked Governor Terence M. McAuliffe to grant him a pardon.
September 27, 2017 -- Albemarle County Sheriff J.E. "Chip" Harding holds a second press conference on the Haysom/Soering case, at which he presents several experts' reports.
October 10, 2017 -- The Virginia Parole Board hold its thirteenth parole hearing for Jens Soering. In attendance are former President of Germany Christian Wulff and German Ambassador Dr. Peter Wittig.
October 27, 2017 -- The University of Richmond's Institute for Actual Innocence announces its support of Jens Soering's pardon petition at a press conference covered by the Washington Post.
November 30, 2017 -- The Washington Post publishes an article, calling on Governor Terry McAuliffe to grant Jens a pardon before leaving office on January 13, 2018.
February 23, 2018 -- The Virginia Parole Board denies Jens' parole for the 13th time.
April 9, 2018 -- Albemarle County Sheriff J.E. "Chip" Harding holds a press conference, featuring F.B.I. Special Agent Stanley J. Lapekas. Also in attendance are Detective Sergeant Richard Hudson and Senior Investigator Chuck Reid. Together, they issue a "Call for Pardon" addressed to Governor Ralph Northam. Watch a local TV report or read a newspaper article.
May, 2018 -- On May 2 and 7, 2018, the Roanoke Times publishes "pro" and "con" op-ed articles by Glenn Ayers, a supporter of the Bedford County Sheriff's Department, and Bill Sizemore, a supporter of Jens' pardon petition. Read both sides' best arguments in their own words!
October 2, 2018 -- Jason Flom (founding board member of th New York Innocence Project) and Chip Harding (Sheriff of Albemarle County) discusses Jens's case at an event commemorating Wrongful Conviction Day. Watch the report on CBS.
October 31, 2018 - Virginia public radio broadcasts an interview with Detective Sergeant Richard Hudson. He discusses the new shoe print he discovered in an old crime scene photo as well as the endless delays in processing Jens Soering's pardon petition, submitted more than two years ago.
February 4, 2019 -- John Grisham discusses the Soering case on the award-winning podcast "Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom."
March 5, 2019 -- Prominent human rights attorney Prof. Irwin Cotler joined Jens's team after visiting him in Buckingham Correctional Center. Prof. Cotler is the former Canadian Minister of Justice, attorney for political prisoners like Nelson Mandela and Andrei Sakharov, and a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Watch or read an interview with Prof. Irwin Cotler, and read a summary of the current state of the case.
April 21, 2019 -- The Washington Post publishes a detailed article on the case.
May 29, 2019 -- Sundance Now released the first episode of an eight-part podcast about the Soering case, produced and narrated by Amanda Knox.
May, 29, 2019