Virginia’s parole board has for the 14th time denied parole to Jens Soering, according to his attorney, leaving the former University of Virginia student to continue serving two consecutive life sentences for a 1985 Bedford County double-murder.
Soering, 52, the son of a former German diplomat, was convicted of killing of Derek and Nancy Haysom, who were found dead in their Lynchburg-area home with their throats cut ear-to-ear and their bodies mutilated by multiple knife wounds.
Soering has filed pleas for a pardon with the Virginia governor’s office and sought parole more than a dozen times. All efforts have been denied.
“On behalf of Jens Soering and the many supporters working to secure his freedom from prison, I want to express my extreme disappointment at the recent decision by Virginia’s parole board to deny him parole,” said Steven D. Rosenfield, the Batesville attorney who has helped with the effort.
“The [parole board] defines its mission as to ‘grant parole to those offenders whose release is compatible with public safety.’ It is difficult to imagine a better candidate for parole than Jens Soering,” Rosenfield said.
Rosenfield said Soering has a “solid release plan” in which he would live and work in his native Germany and that his release is supported by the German Embassy and Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“He will be aided by many friends and supporters who believe in him and will help him be successful,” Rosenfield said. “Jens’ release from prison will pose absolutely no risk to public safety.”
By Soering’s count, posted on his website, he will have spent 32 years, 9 months and 3 days in prison by Thursday morning. Rosenfield said Soering’s prison history is clear of trouble and his list of accomplishments while imprisoned is significant.
“During his almost 33 years in prison, Jens has compiled an outstanding record, with not a single disciplinary infraction and scores of accomplishments, including the publication of 10 books written from his prison cell,” Rosenfield said.
Elizabeth Haysom was found guilty of being an accessory in the killing of her parents while Soering, her boyfriend at the time, was convicted of both murders. Soering and Haysom were both UVa honors students at the time of the killings.
Haysom was sentenced to 90 years but will receive mandatory parole in 2032, when she is 68. Both were convicted prior to Virginia’s elimination of parole.
Soering has maintained his innocence during and after his trial. He’s said the several confessions he made to the crime were made to cover for Haysom.
Within the past two years, Soering’s innocence claims have received backing by current and former law enforcement officials, including a retired FBI agent and Albemarle County Sheriff J.E. “Chip” Harding.
Harding was unavailable Wednesday for comment on the case, but Rosenfield said the sheriff and retired federal agent Stanley Lapekas have found evidence questioning Soering’s conviction.
“This evidence includes DNA, crime scene photographs and other forensic evidence,” Rosenfield said. “Jens’ quest for exoneration of these murders has many supporters, including current and former law enforcement officers and forensic scientists. For all of these reasons, it is difficult to imagine a valid public purpose that is served by continuing to warehouse Jens Soering in prison.”