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Soering's attorney presents evidence to dispute guilt in double murder

(by Lauren Berg, The Daily Progress, August 24, 2016, Link)

Thirty-one years ago, a Bedford County couple was brutally stabbed to death in their home, subsequently setting off a five-year investigation and two sensational trials.

This week, Jens Soering, the German national convicted of killing his former girlfriend’s parents when he and Elizabeth Haysom were students at the University of Virginia, asked for a full pardon from Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Soering has maintained his innocence since his conviction in 1990 and has since been denied parole 11 times.

On March 30, 1985, Derek and Nancy Haysom were killed in their Bedford County home. They were found with dozens of stab wounds and their throats cut from ear to ear. Their daughter, 20 at the time, eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder as an accessory before the fact.

Elizabeth Haysom is currently serving 90-year sentence in prison, but she will receive mandatory parole in 2032, when she is 68 years old.

Soering has repeatedly asked Virginia governors to send him back to Germany, including Timothy M. Kaine, the running mate of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Right before he left office, Kaine agreed to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to approve the transfer, but only on the condition that Germany keep him in prison for another two years. That decision, however, was reversed by his Republican successor, Bob McDonnell.

Earlier this month, Republicans brought the case back into the spotlight by questioning Kaine’s decision to try to send Soering back to Germany. Dels. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, and C. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said they don’t understand Kaine’s line of reasoning. In the past, Kaine has said he wanted to kick a convicted murderer out of the country so he could save money for the state.

At a news conference Wednesday, Steven Rosenfield, Soering’s attorney since 2010, presented evidence to cast doubt on the guilt of his client. Beginning by attacking the science of the prosecution’s case, Rosenfield said none of the blood samples found at the scene of the crime could be connected to Soering.

In 1985, an analysis was done on blood found at the crime scene. Five blood stains were found to be type O — the same type as Soering. Prosecutor Jim Updike explained the finding by telling the jury Soering must have been injured in a knife fight at the scene.

In 2009, as part of a post-conviction review, new DNA testing was done on some of the same items collected at the crime scene, Rosenfield said. Of the 43 items with blood samples, just 11 were stable enough to test.

“Of those 11 items, two were found with type O blood, and a DNA scientist reported that Jens Soering was eliminated as a contributor of that blood,” Rosenfield said.

Rosenfield also raised questions about a shot glass found by Derek Haysom’s body. Two sets of fingerprints were found on the glass, Rosenfield said, with one set belonging to Haysom, but the other remains unidentified. Rosenfield said the unidentified blood and fingerprints point to an unknown person being at the scene of the crime.

Rosenfield next dismissed the prosecution’s only other piece of physical evidence in the case by pointing out the unclear science surrounding a sock print in blood. He also said the expert witness in the matter, a tire impression expert, should never have been able to testify in court, let alone lead the jury to believe the bloody print was an exact match to Soering’s bare footprint.

At the news conference, Rosenfield also showed a German-produced film called “The Promise,” which suggests that Haysom killed her parents with the help of her reported drug dealer — a man the film discovered had recently died.

The film also includes an interview with an FBI profiler who concluded that the killer was someone well-known to the couple, because Nancy Haysom was found dead in her nightgown. The profiler hypothesized the killer to be Elizabeth Haysom. His report was never given to the defense, though, and is assumed to still be in the FBI’s archives, according to the film.

Also in the film is an extended interview with Soering at the Buckingham Correctional Center near Dillwyn, where he is currently serving two life sentences. In it, he talks about his regret for ruining his own life and those of his parents.

“I thought I was a hero,” Soering said of his original confession. “I thought I was a great guy.”

Soering, who was 18 at the time of the murders, initially confessed to the killings in an effort to protect Haysom — believing he would have diplomatic immunity as a German national — but later recanted his story and said Haysom killed her parents. While Soering maintained his innocence, Haysom testified against him at his trial in 1990.

Prosecutors said the Haysoms were killed because they disapproved of their daughter’s relationship with Soering.

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