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Jens Soering and Elizabeth Haysom Granted Parole, Will Be Deported

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The governor’s office has written what could be the final chapter in a case that’s sparked controversy for more than 30 years. After months of review, Ralph Northam says he will not pardon Jens Soering, but the 53-year-old prisoner will be paroled. The woman convicted as an accomplice to his crime will also be freed.

Jens Soering has not spoken with reporters since the news leaked that he had won parole. In an earlier interview he told RADIO IQ he would prefer a pardon but would be satisfied with a favorable decision from the parole board.

“My case has been very heavily politicized – especially these last few years," he said. "At this stage I just want to go home. If that’s by parole, I’ve certainly earned parole," Soering said. "It would simply be a recognition that I’ve served without incurring any institutional infractions and showing every sign of rehabilitation – having gone through all the programs that they’ve asked me to go through.”

In recent years, Soering discovered that DNA found at the crime scene came from two other men – never identified, and he found proof of an FBI profile that pointed to Elizabeth Haysom as the killer.

“Today I think anybody who looks at it with a halfway objective eye can see that I didn’t do this crime,” he concludes.

But it appears the parole board was not convinced and did not recommend a full pardon for Soering. As a German citizen, he will now be sent back to his homeland, and Elizabeth Haysom – a citizen of Canada – will also be deported.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.


Governor Ralph Northam has announced he will not pardon Jens Soering, a former UVA honors student convicted of killing his girlfriend’s parents, but the parole board has voted to release him and the woman convicted as his accomplice.  Sandy Hausman has details.


Jens Soering was convicted of a brutal double-murder – stabbing his girlfriend’s parents to death in their Bedford County home in 1985.  When he and Elizabeth Haysom became suspects, they left the country, and when they were caught in the UK, Soering confessed to the crime.

His confession was flawed – made, he says, to protect the woman he loved from execution. DNA now suggests the presence of Elizabeth Haysom and two other men at the crime scene.

“I think it’s pretty clear to outsiders that this has been just a massive miscarriage of justice,” Soering says.

He has not spoken to reporters since word of his parole leaked, but in an earlier interview he told RadioIQ that his case had been politicized – Republicans using it to burnish their law and order credentials and Democrats reluctant to ruffle Republican feathers.  He expressed his hope that the voters would vindicate him.

“We live in a democracy here, and that means the citizenry – the voters – bear some responsibility for what their government does.  Now it’s a fact that a previous governor, current senator Timothy Kaine made the right decision.  It was a difficult decision, but it was a courageous decision.”

Kaine was prepared to send Soering back to Germany, but Bob McDonnell took office and blocked the transfer. Soering spent over thirty years behind bars, treating his quest for freedom like a job.  He was often on the phone to lawyers and reporters, making the case for his innocence, but the parole board’s part-time investigators – retired state police – were not convinced, and Governor Northam agreed with their recommendation – to pass on a pardon.  Soering and Haysom will be released to federal immigration officers who will arrange for his return to Germany and hers to Canada.


One of the most controversial criminal cases in state history has come to a close – convicted killer Jens Soering and the woman found guilty of helping him will be paroled.  Sandy Hausman has details.  


Jens Soering will be sent back to his homeland – Germany, while Elizabeth Haysom,  a citizen of Canada, will be deported to that country. Both maintain their innocence in the bloody double murder of Haysom’s parents in 1985. Soering has presented new DNA evidence of two mystery men at the crime scene and an FBI profile pointing to Elizabeth as the killer.

Well before their parole was announced, Soering expressed remorse for failing to cooperate with police and giving a false confession that led to more than 30 years behind bars. 

“At the end of the day the worst thing about prison life is the complete and total uselessness of this existence," he exlains.  "Any normal human being wants to make a difference, wants to make their little corner of the world better, and that is essentially what is impossible to do in prison.”

At times he’s considered suicide, but was dissuaded by supporters, celebrities like Martin Sheen, John Grisham and Amanda Knox, German political leaders and diplomats who have begged Virginia to send Soering home.  Now, he’s excited to begin a new life.

“I thought about starting an Innocence Project in Germany, because the German justice system, you know they make mistakes too over there, but they don’t have an Innocence Project,” he told Virginia Public Radio.

Or he may write – having penned seven books in prison including a critique of Virginia’s correctional system and a murder mystery released earlier this month. 

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief