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Investigator, former judge dispute man's claims in Soering case

(Ray Reed, Lynchburg News & Advance, March 24, 2011, Link)

Dispute swirled Thursday over a Madison Heights resident’s account of how an unknown man could have been involved in the Haysom murder case in 1985.

A Bedford County sheriff’s officer denied that he ever talked to Tony Buchanan, who said he tried to report that a man came into his car repair shop with Elizabeth Haysom.

Buchanan said the man looked nothing like Jens Soering, who was later convicted along with Haysom of murdering her parents in their Boonsboro home.

A former judge also disputed Buchanan’s recollection of trying to tell the judge a few years ago that someone else may have been involved in the murders of Derek and Nancy Haysom.

Buchanan said in a March 10 statement to Soering’s lawyer, Gail Ball of Norfolk, that Haysom came into his business some time after the murders with a man who looked nothing like Soering.

Haysom paid for repairs to the man’s car, which had bloodstains on the floorboard and a bloody knife in the console, Buchanan said.

The statement is based almost entirely on Buchanan’s memory of the 1985 events.

Buchanan said he couldn’t find his business records of the transaction. But Haysom’s credit card payment could have been traced by authorities, he said.

 Ball is using Buchanan’s statement to try to persuade Gov. Bob McDonnell and the state parole board that Soering’s guilt is in doubt and that he should receive executive clemency so he can be returned to his native Germany.

In the statement, Buchanan said he told Maj. Ricky Gardner of the Bedford County Sheriff’s office about the unknown man accompanying Haysom during a phone conversation about two months ago.

Gardner said the conversation never occurred.

“He has never talked to Ricky Gardner, and he’s under oath stating that he talked to me, and I will challenge him on that point,” Gardner said Thursday.

Gardner said he would have discussed such a call with others in the sheriff’s department and probably would have reported the new information to the state attorney general.

Gardner said he was willing to take a polygraph test.

Buchanan said Thursday that phone records of the Bedford sheriff’s office should prove a 15-minute call was made to his Madison Heights home by someone who identified himself as Ricky Gardner. Buchanan said he told the caller about the unknown man who accompanied Haysom.

Buchanan said he, too, was willing to take a polygraph test, if it was at someplace other than the Bedford sheriff’s department.

William Sweeney, the judge who presided over the Haysom and Soering trials in Bedford County Circuit Court, also disputed an aspect of Buchanan’s account.

Buchanan said in his statement that Sweeney discussed the Soering case during a speech four or five years ago to an Army airborne veterans’ association. Buchanan said he told Sweeney about the unknown man with Haysom.

Sweeney said Thursday he recalled speaking to the veterans group, partly because he was a member of it himself. But Sweeney said he didn’t remember his topic that night or having any conversation with Buchanan.

“I don’t really remember this gentleman. I’m sure I would recognize him when I saw him,” Sweeney said.

If Buchanan had presented any new information about the Haysom case,  Sweeney said, he would have told him to contact the sheriff’s office or commonwealth’s attorney. Sweeney was retired from the judgeship when he gave the speech to the veterans group.

In his statement, Buchanan recalls that one of his employees told him about the car’s bloodstains and the knife. Buchanan said he assumed the blood came from an illegal, out-of-season deer hunting episode, partly because the car had been driven through grass and mud.

Two of his employees from that time have died, Buchanan said, and he didn’t know the whereabouts of others.

Buchanan could not recall exactly when the car was towed in to his shop, but he said in the statement that he thought it was two to four months after the Haysom murders, which were discovered in early April of 1985.

In the statement and also in a phone interview with The News & Advance, Buchanan said the only thing he was sure of about the timing was that it didn’t occur during the October-November hunting season.

Buchanan said he didn’t associate the blood with a murder case because the details of the Haysoms’ stabbing deaths had not been reported in the news media, and only later did he recognize Haysom’s photo in the newspaper and connect it to the car.

Gardner said Elizabeth Haysom couldn’t have been in Buchanan’s shop during the summer months because she and Soering, who were students at the University of Virginia, traveled in Europe throughout the summer of 1985. They left school right after spring exams and didn’t return until time for fall classes, Gardner said.

Gardner said he and another investigator had their first interview with Soering on Oct. 6, 1985, and about a week later Soering and Haysom fled to Europe. They were eventually arrested in London in May of 1986 and brought back to the United States for trial in Bedford County.

Soering is serving two life terms for murder. Haysom is serving 90 years as an accomplice.

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