BERLIN – A German diplomat's son who served more than 33 years in prison for a double murder in Virginia that he has steadfastly maintained he didn't commit arrived in his homeland Tuesday after being released on parole.
Jens Soering, his brown hair now graying, was met by a crush of supporters and reporters after he landed in Frankfurt following his deportation, saying “I would never have managed it without these people who supported me for years.”
“After 33 years, 6 months and 25 days, to finally, finally be back in Germany, it's so great,” he said. “I am so happy. This is really the best day of my life.”
Soering, 53, was convicted of murdering his then-girlfriend Elizabeth Haysom's parents in 1985 and was serving a life sentence in Virginia when he was granted parole last month. Haysom, who was serving a 90-year sentence as an accessory, was also granted parole at the same time.
The slayings of Nancy and Derek Haysom on the outskirts of Lynchburg, Virginia, attracted national attention in the U.S. both for their brutal ferocity — the victims had their throats slashed and were collectively stabbed nearly 50 times — and due to the suspects.
Soering, a self-described nerd, was the teenage son of West Germany's vice consul at the consulate in Detroit and Haysom, the daughter of a retired Canadian steel executive, was portrayed at the time as a worldly femme fatale.
The two met as University of Virginia students. They fled before they had emerged as the main suspects and were eventually arrested in London.
Haysom did not fight her extradition but Soering did, and he was only sent back to the United States after a four-year legal battle. His 1990 trial was a sensation, one of the first to be televised live. Haysom testified against him, telling the court she manipulated Soering into committing the killings because her parents wanted to end their daughter’s relationship with Soering.
Soering to this day maintains that Haysom carried out the killings herself and only told him after the slayings. Haysom, a Canadian citizen, was also ordered deported after her release on parole.
Soering initially confessed to the murders, but later said he had only done so because he thought his father's status as a diplomat would provide him immunity in the United States, and that he would serve a short juvenile sentence in Germany while sparing Haysom the possibility of the electric chair.
Soering's parole was rejected 14 times before finally being granted last month and he also petitioned for a pardon many times.
In his pardon applications, Soering and his lawyers said DNA evidence unavailable at the time of his conviction pointed to his innocence. The DNA analyses showed that some of the Type O blood found at the scene did not belong to Soering. Nor could it have belonged to Haysom, who has Type B blood.
Soering has suggested in many interviews that Haysom must have enlisted the help of others in the killings.
Over the years, Soering garnered many supporters advocating for his release, including from law enforcement officials who have re-examined the evidence using new forensic techniques, crime author John Grisham and movie star Martin Sheen.
“I have a lot of wonderful friends in America, a lot of them police officers, and that's the only reason I'm here — because so many police officers came forward and investigated this case and found out the truth and they let me go,” Soering said after his arrival in Germany.
Peter Beyer, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's party and the government's coordinator for trans-Atlantic relations, was among those who met Soering at the airport.
Soering's mother died while he was in prison and he has said he is now estranged from his father.
He did not say where he planned to live in Germany and took no questions at the airport. He asked reporters to respect his privacy for the next few weeks while he tries to settle back into society.