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Parole Board denies Haysom early release

She is serving a 90-year term in parents' deaths

(by Carlos Santos, Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 24, 1995)

Elizabeth Haysom, a former University of Virginia scholar sentenced to 90 years in prison for the murder of her parents 10 years ago, was notified yesterday that she had been turned down for parole. It was her first parole hearing.

The parole board also deferred her next parole hearing for three years, the maximum amount allowed by law, according to Mindy Daniels, executive assistant to the chairman of the Virginia Parole Board. Haysom admitted to conspiring with her boyfriend, Jens Soering -- then also a top student at U.Va. -- to kill her parents.

Haysom, 31, is being held at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women in Goochland County. She has served about eight years in prison. Only a very small percentage of inmates convicted of violent crimes are released at a first hearing, officials said.

Doug Hornig, a mystery writer from Nelson County who has become friends with Haysom, said she was expecting to be turned down. He visited her two weeks ago at the prison after being out of touch with her for several years.

Hornig also wrote a letter to the parole board asking that she be released. "I like her. She is a very, very smart person. She has a lot to offer society," Hornig said. "I don't see the point of keeping her in prison."
Haysom met with a parole examiner at the prison on April 5, Daniels said. In a typical parole examination "a great deal of information is looked at," Daniels said. The inmate's prison record, the details of the crime, the time served, input from victims and friends and the individual's role in the crime are noted, Daniels said.

Daniels wouldn't say how the five-person board voted but noted that a majority is required to deny parole. If Haysom had been granted parole, she would have been released Aug. 7. She must be released under mandatory parole in June 2032.

Daniels said the board would not disclose the reason for turning Haysom down. "Suffice it to say that the board felt it was not appropriate."

Bedford County Circuit Judge William Sweeney, who presided over the Haysom case, wrote a letter to the parole board shortly after her sentencing in 1987, opposing early release. "Based on the seriousness of the charges and the heinous nature of the crimes, I strongly feel that Elizabeth Haysom should not receive early release," he wrote.

The crime was one of the most sordid and most widely publicized in Virginia. Bedford County Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Updike, who prosecuted Haysom, said he received calls from around the world about the case. "But not a lot is said about it around here anymore."

Updike said he didn't want to comment on whether she should receive early parole. "On one hand, she freely admitted that her parents wouldn't be dead if not for her. She wanted them dead. On the other hand, she was a great assistance to me."

Updike said Haysom helped him gather evidence against Soering and even outlined the whole case for him. "That's another side of Elizabeth Haysom that, in fairness, needs to be known," Updike said.

Soering was convicted of killing her parents in their Bedford County home in March 1985 while Elizabeth Haysom waited in a Washington hotel room. Derek and Nancy Haysom were stabbed and slashed to death. The motive for the crime has always been murky, though Elizabeth Haysom said Soering was furious that her parents wanted to stop him from seeing her.

Soering, sentenced to two life terms for the slayings, is in Keen Mountain Correctional Center in Southwest Virginia. Haysom was convicted of being an accessory before the fact to the slayings.
"She's a fascinating person to talk to," Updike said of Haysom. "Very charming. Knowing her intellectual ability you have to wonder what happened. Why her parents are dead. That's something I could never understand."
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