Sher­iff sup­ports free­dom bid for So­er­ing in 1985 mur­ders

Albe­marle of­fi­cial who re­viewed case urges gov­er­nor to con­sider par­don

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - FRONT PAGE - BY FRANK GREEN

Albe­marle County Sher­iff J.E. “Chip” Hard­ing is sup­port­ing a bid for free­dom for Jens So­er­ing, a Ger­man na­tional con­victed of the 1985 mur­ders of his girl­friend’s par­ents in Bed­ford County.

And a new re­port from an ex­pert re­quested by So­er­ing’s lawyer ques­tions the work done by the Vir­ginia De­part­ment of Foren­sic Science in 2009, which sub­jected ev­i­dence re­cov­ered from the bloody crime scene to DNA test­ing not avail­able at the time of the mur­ders.

In a case that has gen­er­ated na­tional and in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion for decades — re­cently a Ger­man film and an Amer­i­can book — So­er­ing has a par­don re­quest pend­ing be­fore Gov. Terry McAuliffe based in part on the DNA test re­sults.

Reached by tele­phone Tues­day, Hard­ing said, “I would hope (McAuliffe)

would at least con­sider a con­di­tional par­don and let him go back to Ger­many.”

In his 19-page let­ter to McAuliffe, Hard­ing said that af­ter spend­ing 200 hours as a vol­un­teer look­ing into the case he con­cluded, “In my opin­ion, Jens So­er­ing would not be con­victed if the case were tried today, and the ev­i­dence ap­pears to sup­port a case for in­no­cence.”

So­er­ing was con­victed of the mur­ders of Derek and Nancy Haysom at the be­hest of their daugh­ter — his girl­friend and fel­low Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia schol­ar­ship stu­dent El­iz­a­beth Haysom. Both were con­victed of the mur­ders. So­er­ing ini­tially con­fessed but later said he did so falsely to pro­tect Haysom.

The gov­er­nor’s of­fice con­firmed there is a pend­ing par­don re­quest but would not com­ment fur­ther.

In 2009, DNA test­ing by the Vir­ginia De­part­ment of Foren­sic Science iden­ti­fied DNA pro­files in 11 items re­cov­ered in­side the Haysoms’ house but failed to find So­er­ing’s or El­iz­a­beth Haysom’s DNA.

Then last year, So­er­ing and his lawyer, Steven Rosen­field of Char­lottesvill­e, an­nounced that two of the items that yielded DNA re­sults were Type O blood stains.

So­er­ing has Type O blood but the three Haysoms do not. The pros­e­cu­tor ar­gued to the jury dur­ing the trial that the Type O blood at the scene was ev­i­dence So­er­ing was the killer.

Rosen­field and So­er­ing said last year that the 2009 test re­sults meant the only way So­er­ing was guilty was if he had a male ac­com­plice with Type O blood, an ac­com­plice So­er­ing has in­ex­pli­ca­bly pro­tected for decades.

The 2009 De­part­ment of Foren­sic Science re­port said the male DNA found in the two Type O stains was consistent with the male DNA found in six Type A stains — Derek Haysom was Type A — and that the DNA all “orig­i­nated from a com­mon male con­trib­u­tor.”

Betty Layne DesPortes, a Rich­mond lawyer and pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Acad­emy of Foren­sic Sci­ences, told the Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch last year that since one per­son can­not have two dif­fer­ent blood types, the De­part­ment of Foren­sic Science re­sults in­di­cated some­thing was amiss, pos­si­bly con­tam­i­na­tion.

How­ever, a re­port dated Mon­day by Moses Schan­field, a DNA ex­pert on the fac­ulty at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity, con­cludes that the state re­port was mis­lead­ing and that there was not enough in­for­ma­tion to say the DNA from the two dif­fer­ent blood types came from the same per­son.

“It is my opin­ion that Mr. So­er­ing was elim­i­nated as the con­trib­u­tor of Type O blood at the crime scene,” Schan­field wrote. He added, “At least one or more male con­trib­u­tors ... with Type O blood other than Mr. So­er­ing were at the crime scene.”

Schan­field’s re­port also crit­i­cized what he said was a Sept. 15, 2016, memo from the De­part­ment of Foren­sic Science that he says sug­gests the blood­typ­ing done by the foren­sic lab­o­ra­tory in 1985 may be er­ro­neous be­cause there was not enough blood to work with.

He con­tends, “This one state­ment alone in­di­cates a con­fir­ma­tion bias by the DFS lab­o­ra­tory.” The blood typ­ing re­sults for at least one of the Type O stains is “in­dis­putable,” he con­cluded.

Schan­field added that DesPortes did not have the ben­e­fit of the de­part­ment’s lab­o­ra­tory records, which he re­viewed when stat­ing that the DNA pro­file iden­ti­fied in the Type O blood may have come from a source other than Type O blood.

The de­part­ment said Tues­day that it could not com­ment on Schan­field’s con­tentions.

DesPortes said she based her re­marks on the 1985 serol­ogy re­port and on the 2009 De­part­ment of Foren­sic Science re­port that said there was a com­mon male DNA con­trib­u­tor found in two dif­fer­ent blood types. She said if Schan­field had more in­for­ma­tion to work with than she did, she would de­fer to his con­clu­sion.

How­ever, she said, without the DNA of the mur­der vic­tims, the im­por­tance of the ev­i­dence re­mains in ques­tion.

“Un­til you know who the source of the DNA is, you don’t know of what value the DNA ev­i­dence is,” DesPortes said.

“Have they ruled out the male vic­tim as the con­trib­u­tor? Un­til they know that, they do not know the true pro­ba­tive value of this ev­i­dence,” she said.

Rosen­field said Tues­day that no one has the DNA pro­files of the two par­ents. In any case, he said that the DNA test re­sults in 2009 of the old ev­i­dence are not de­tailed enough to en­able pos­i­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tions — only ex­clu­sions.

So­er­ing, now 50, was con­victed of the mur­ders in 1990 and sen­tenced to two life terms. He has said that his ini­tial con­fes­sions were an ef­fort to pro­tect his girl­friend and that he wrongly thought he had some diplo­matic pro­tec­tion and that he might be pun­ished as a ju­ve­nile.

Haysom, 53, pleaded guilty and was sen­tenced to 90 years. In an in­ter­view last year, she said So­er­ing mur­dered her par­ents while she waited in Wash­ing­ton, though she con­ceded he killed them for her. She also ad­mit­ted that she was sex­u­ally abused by her mother, some­thing that she pre­vi­ously de­nied.

Some foren­sic ev­i­dence linked her to the crime scene but could have been left by her dur­ing a pre­vi­ous visit. Hard­ing’s let­ter to McAuliffe said his the­ory is that El­iz­a­beth Haysom was at the crime scene at the time of the mur­ders and was as­sisted by two men.

Jens So­er­ing, now 50, is in prison for two killings.

1996, CINDY PINKSTON/ROANOKE TIMES

Jens So­er­ing is led away from Bed­ford County Cir­cuit Court af­ter try­ing to get his mur­der con­vic­tions over­turned. The Ger­man has said that his ini­tial con­fes­sions were an ef­fort to pro­tect his girl­friend.

Hard­ing

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