Gov. McDonnell won't recommend parole for diplomat's son
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Gov. Bob McDonnell said Tuesday he will not recommend parole for a former German diplomat's son who is serving two life sentences for killing his ex-girlfriend's parents.
Jens Soering, 44, asked McDonnell to intervene in his parole petition, citing new DNA tests and other evidence that he claimed proved his innocence. McDonnell said he had reviewed the information but believes Soering is guilty.
Both Soering and then-girlfriend Elizabeth Haysom confessed to the 1985 murder of her parents, Derek and Nancy Haysom, who were stabbed and nearly decapitated in their Bedford County home. Soering later said he only did so because he thought he had immunity through his father and wanted to protect Haysom from the death penalty.
"At the request of Soering's attorney, I have reviewed Soering's request for parole, and nothing in the information provided by Soering or his attorney provides any basis for me to doubt the judgment of the jury in this case or the veracity of Soering's own confessions," McDonnell said in a written statement.
McDonnell said he also would not grant Soering a pardon or any other form of clemency, because "it is imperative that Soering serve out his punishment in the Commonwealth of Virginia."
Soering came close to being sent back to Germany last year when, days before he left office, then-Gov. Timothy M. Kaine asked the Justice Department to transfer Soering to a German prison. Kaine secretly agreed to a plan that would have kept Soering behind bars
for two years.
McDonnell revoked that request soon after taking office. Kaine had refused to discuss the transfer debacle until he announced his campaign for U.S. Senate, when upon questioning he said he felt the German government should have to pay for his incarceration.
"He is not a sympathetic character, that's true. I would never grant him clemency," Kaine told the AP. "But I did feel like Virginians have paid for his incarceration for a very long time, let the Germans pay to keep this guy."
Soering has been eligible for parole since 2003. While in prison, he has penned books proclaiming his innocence and picked up international support for his release.
"I need to go home," Soering told the AP in an interview at Buckingham Correctional Center in February. "I know I didn't do this. I don't need Virginia to tell me I didn't do it."
Soering's attorneys had sent several letters to McDonnell asking him to intervene. They pointed to DNA tests completed in 2009 on decades-old biological evidence that eliminated Soering as a contributor and to other evidence as casting doubt on his guilt.
Bedford County Sheriff's Maj. Ricky Gardner, the lead investigator in the case, said McDonnell did the right thing. "He did the crime in Virginia, he should pull the time in Virginia," he said of Soering. "I just believe that with all my heart. There's no doubt in my mind he murdered the Haysoms."
Elizabeth Haysom pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 90 years in prison. In a letter to the AP, she said she and Soering were both guilty and should remain behind bars.
"He is right to blame me. I involved him in a horrible crime," Haysom said. "The bottom line, however, is that we are equally responsible for the murder of my parents. And we both deserve incarceration."
Virginia abolished parole in 1995, but those convicted before then remain eligible for early release. Bill Muse, chairman of the parole board, said it treats all inmates the same and that McDonnell does not get involved in the board's decisions.
"Jens Soering will come up every year for parole just like every other offender will, and we'll take a look at it and make a decision," Muse said.