The state of Virginia has granted parole to a former German diplomat’s son who is currently serving a life sentence in prison for the murder of his girlfriend’s parents three decades ago, when he was 18.
The office of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said on Monday that the state parole board had voted to release Jens Söring, 53, and former girlfriend Elizabeth Haysom, 55, from prison.
The former couple have both been held in prison for more than thirty years for crimes related to the murder of Haysom’s parents, Nancy and Derek Haysom.
Söring is currently serving two lifelong sentences for their murder while Haysom is serving two consecutive 45-year sentences for being an accessory to the crimes.
Parole board chair Adrianne Bennett said in statement, “The parole board has determined that releasing Jens Söring and Elizabeth Haysom…is appropriate because of their youth at the time of the offenses, their institutional adjustment and the length of their incarceration.”
Söring, a German citizen, and Haysom, a Canadian citizen, will be handed over to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and deported. They are prohibited from re-entering the US.
Söring’s lawyer Steven Rosenfield said he had not yet been notified of his client’s release, but that Söring had been a model prisoner. Local media report that Söring will return to Germany.
In 1985, Elizabeth Haysom’s parents were found stabbed to death and nearly decapitated in the city of Lynchburg, Virginia. While not initially suspects, Haysom and her then-boyfriend Söring fled to London in 1986 once they fell under suspicion. There they were arrested and returned to the US.
Söring initially admitted to the killings but later withdrew his confession and claimed Haysom convinced him to cover for her crimes. He said he thought that his status as the son of a diplomat would grant him immunity.
Haysom testified against Söring, saying that she manipulated him into killing her parents, who were against her relationship with Söring.
Governments call for his release
Since withdrawing his confession, Söring has insisted upon his innocence. Recent DNA evidence seems to support his claim.
Söring’s previous 14 parole requests were all rejected, despite efforts by multiple Virginia governors and the German government to obtain his release.
Transatlantic Coordinator for the German government Peter Beyer, who has twice visited Söring in prison, welcomed the decision.
“At out last meeting this summer, I had the impression he was mentally and physically well, despite the fact that every day he lives the hard reality of life in a southern state prison, where gangs, drugs, and rape are part of daily life,” said Beyer.
Critics have called Söring’s release insensitive to the family of the victims. But the parole board holds that he does not pose a safety risk and that his release and expulsion are “an enormous cost-benefit to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
kp/se (AP, dpa, epd)