It’s been six weeks since convicted killer Jens Soering asked Virginia’s governor for a pardon based on new evidence. Soering has been behind bars for more than 30 years in connection with the bloody murders of his girlfriend’s parents.
Now, in a story exclusive to RadioIQ and NBC 12 in Richmond, a former detective who spent six months on the case says he’s convinced Soering is innocent.
Detective Chuck Reid was called to the home of a prominent Bedford County couple -- Derrick and Nancy Haysom -- in April of 1985.
“The Sunday prior to that I was watching the movie Helter Skelter," Reid says. "Then three days later I walk into the Haysom house.”
And what he found at the Haysom’s made him think of the bloody Manson murders depicted in Helter Skelter. Inside the front door, he found Mr. Haysom, all but decapitated.
“The whole floor was just smeared with blood, and then as you step into the kitchen Mrs. Haysom was lying there on the floor,” says Reid.
Police called in a respected criminal profiler, Ed Sulzbach, who died recently in Northern Virginia. Reid says Sulzbach concluded the murderer was female, and was looking at the daughter.
The daughter was Elizabeth Haysom, an honors student at the University of Virginia. On several occasions she had told her German boyfriend, Jens Soering, that she hated her parents and wished they were dead. Police brought Elizabeth and Jens in for interrogation.
“The first time I laid eyes on Jens Soering, when he walked into my office that Sunday afternoon, it about floored me," Reid says. "Here comes this little 18-year-old kid – maybe he weighed 120 pounds soaking wet. I’m thinking to myself, ‘I can’t see it.’”
On the other hand, Reid suspected Elizabeth was in some way involved.
“I always felt Elizabeth was there, and of course I’m not the only one. Some family members feel the same way I do,” says Reid.
But when the two were finally arrested, Jens said he alone committed the crime. The son of a German diplomat, he thought he’d be sent back to his homeland for trial, and says he hoped to spare Elizabeth, his first love, from execution.
By now, Chuck Reid had taken another job, but when he read about Jens’ confession, he thought something was wrong.
“When he confessed to it, he did not have things quite right the way the crime scene was,” says Reid.
Prosecutors had argued that type O blood found at the scene came from Jens – but a recent review of DNA evidence shows the type O blood was not his. In fact, Reid says there is nothing from the crime scene to suggest Soering was there – although there’s reason to believe Elizabeth and an unknown man were.
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“You’ve got her fingerprint on a vodka bottle. You’ve got a hair sample that was in the bathroom sink that nobody knows whose it is. You have an unknown fingerprint on a shot glass," Reid says. "We don’t know whose that is. It’s not Jens’. You’ve got Merit cigarette butts. That’s what Elizabeth would smoke was Merit. So you’ve got more that puts her there than Jens Soering.”
A tire track expert testified at the trial that a bloody sock print matched Soering’s foot, but investigators in Bedford County concluded the print was likely left by a woman or a young boy. Elizabeth was eventually convicted as an accessory after the crime, and from a cell at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women she denies knowing about the murders in advance or playing any part in the actual killings.
Elizabeth had a history of mental illness, and was known to lie. Jens used to tease her about fabrications – calling them POT ’s – perversions of the truth. Chuck Reid doubts her claim of innocence and believes she had help in killing her parents.
“Now a name came up of an individual who’s deceased now that was really good friends with her and supposedly was one of her drug supplier," Reid says. "I know she did a lot of drugs.”
In fact, Elizabeth told police she had taken LSD on the night her parents were murdered. She claimed to have gone to Washington for the weekend with Jens but says he left her there, took a rental car and went to Bedford .
“And then she said, ‘When he returned to Washington he was wrapped in a sheet covered in blood,” Reid says.
Reid tested the car – the seats, the steering wheel, the carpet and found not a trace of blood. He was never called to testify, but he’s speaking up now – concerned that others involved with the case may be too proud or too political to do so.
“Politics and reputations can’t determine whether a man stays in jail the rest of his life. If they’re not guilty and it can be proven they’re not guilty, then somebody needs to do something,” Reid says.
That somebody could be Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who’s been sitting on a request to pardon Soering since late August. His parole board says it’s so backed up that it can’t get to Soering’s request until some time next year.
“I know the petition, we’ve received it in our office, so it’s going through the normal procedure that we’re looking at it, but I’d be surprised if it would take that long, and I’ll look into that for you,” McAuliffe said when asked about the case.
That was nearly two weeks ago, and RadioIQ has heard nothing more from Terry McAuliffe, nor has the Governor agreed to the German ambassador’s request for a meeting.
Chuck Reid, who has thought often about the case, fears Soering may again be forgotten.
“My concern is that it’s going to run out to the point to where another governor’s going to come in," Reid says. "Then there’s another 3 to 4 years that this young man is going to have to spend behind bars, when it can be proven he’s innocent.”