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Jens Soering renews push for return to Germany with outreach to Gov. Terry McAuliffe

(by Alicia Petska, The Roanoke Times, November 5, 2015, Link)
 

Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office confirmed Thursday it is reviewing a request to return convicted murderer Jens Soering to his native Germany.

Soering — who maintains he’s innocent in the 1985 slayings of Derek and Nancy Haysom of Bedford County — has fought for years to be paroled or sent back to his home country.

His campaign has gained some high-profile support from German officials. In 2010, departing Gov. Tim Kaine caused an uproar when he decided to support the endeavor and ask the U.S. Department of Justice to transfer Soering.

Incoming Gov. Bob McDonnell revoked the request during his first week in office.

Kaine, now a U.S. senator, hasn’t broached the issue with McAuliffe, according to a spokeswoman, and isn’t involved in any efforts to repatriate Soering.

McAuliffe’s office said Thursday the administration received a request from Soering last year and has been reviewing the case.

No timeline for announcing a decision has been set, according to spokesman Brian Coy. Meetings have been held with Soering’s legal team, he said, but he couldn’t comment on the details.

When asked if the request was being seriously considered, Coy said, “We will give it the same consideration we give everybody else.”

In its latest issue, The New Yorker reported Soering was seeking a direct audience with McAuliffe. Coy said McAuliffe hasn’t been part of any meetings to date.

Soering, now 49, was convicted in the brutal stabbing deaths of Derek and Nancy Haysom, the parents of his then-girlfriend Elizabeth Haysom. He was sentenced to two life terms.

The two met while students at the University of Virginia. Elizabeth Haysom testified against Soering and is serving a 90-year sentence for being an accessory to the murders.

Since his conviction, Soering has authored several books and become something of a cause celebre in Germany where many supporters either believe he’s innocent or he should have received a shorter sentence that emphasizes rehabilitation over punishment.

In 2013, news reports said about 150 German lawmakers had signed onto a petition seeking Soering’s release.

His hopes of an international transfer have been strongly opposed by the victims’ family and Bedford County law enforcement.

“I get a little emotional, so forgive me,” Maj. Ricky Gardner of the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday.

“I get emotional about it, because it’s not justice.”

Gardner, who investigated the 1985 murders, said he wasn’t aware Soering renewed his request for repatriation. He remained opposed to efforts to return Soering to Germany. Soering had a fair three-week trial, Gardner said, and was sentenced to serve out his term in a state prison.

“There are other foreign nationals who are in Virginia prisons and serving time. Why Soering thinks he should get any special treatment is beyond me.”

Under the terms of the 2010 agreement reached with Kaine, Soering would have been transferred to a German prison and been eligible for release after two years.

Gardner noted that created the likelihood Soering would be free before Elizabeth Haysom, who was convicted of a lesser offense.

“That’s not justice,” he said. “He needs to serve his time, just like she’s serving her time, in a Virginia penal institution.”

The proper way to deal with both cases is through the parole process, not gubernatorial intervention, Gardner said.

Virginia’s parole board has turned down multiple applications from Soering.

Soering has been critical of the 1990 trial that led to his conviction, calling it a flawed and circumstantial case.

In an interview with The New Yorker, he said, “Any reasonable human being will come to the conclusion that I shouldn’t have been convicted.”

Kaine — who quietly submitted the repatriation request during his last days as governor — had denied an earlier clemency petition from Soering but agreed to the transfer after German officials promised he’d remain in prison for at least two years and would be barred from ever returning to the United States.

He later defended the decision on the grounds it would shift the cost of incarcerating Soering from Virginia to Germany, and it would help maintain positive relationships with Germany.

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