Elizabeth Haysom and Jens Soering Spent Over Three Decades in Prison for a Gruesome Murder

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Nov. 2 2023, Published 1:28 p.m. ET

Jens Soering and Elizabeth Haysom
Source: YouTube/ABC News (video still)

(L-R): Jens Soering and Elizabeth Haysom

The Gist:

  • Elizabeth Haysom and Jens Soering went to prison in 1986 for the 1985 murder of Haysom's parents.
  • The killer couple was paroled in November 2019.
  • Haysome was sent back to Canada while Soering was extradited to Germany.
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"This was a real whodunit," said Ricky Gardner who was one of the investigating officers tasked with finding out who killed Derek W.R. Haysom and his wife Nancy Astor Benedict Haysom in April 1985. While speaking with The Roanoke Times in February 2013, Gardner shared that he was only 29 years old and new to investigating when he was tapped to work on this case.

Along with Chuck Reid, Gardner would spend months working 12-hour days while chasing down a "number of false leads before turning their focus on Elizabeth Haysom and Jens Soering." Haysom, the victims's daughter, was dating Soering whom she met while they were both students at the University of Virginia. Eventually they would both end up in prison but not before turning on each other during the trial. Where are Elizabeth Haysom and Jens Soering now? Here's what we know.

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Nancy Astor Benedict Haysom and Derek W.R. Haysom
Source: YouTube/ABC News

Nancy Astor Benedict Haysom and Derek W.R. Haysom

Where is Elizabeth Haysom now? She was paroled in November 2019.

More than three decades after Haysom and Soering were tried and convicted for accessory before the fact and first-degree murder respectively, they were both granted parole. "I don’t know if you’ve ever been scrutinized for something you did 35 years ago, but it’s not fun," said Gardner to WSLS 10 News in December 2019. Since being sent to prison, supporters of Haysom and Soering decided to look into their cases and at Gardner's investigative tactics in particular.

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Multiple times in the proceeding years, Gardner was questioned by parole board investigators who frequented the scene of the crime in Lynchburg, Va. He was accused of withholding and burying evidence. At the end of the day, Haysom and Soering were granted parole but weren't pardoned. "Here again it feels pretty good to be vindicated after all these years that I was actually right all along," he said.

According to CBS 19 News, Haysom was "detained by ICE for two months," and eventually arrived in Canada — her birthplace — in January 2020. The New Yorker reported that Soering was deported back to Germany in December 2019. "Releasing Jens Soering and Elizabeth Haysom to their ICE deportation detainers is appropriate because of their youth at the time of the offenses, their institutional adjustment, and the length of their incarceration," said Adrianne Bennett, chair of the parole board.

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Jens Soering was also paroled and always maintained his innocence.

Soering was only 19 years old when he went to prison for murder, and was 53 when he finally got out. During that time, the world he knew completely vanished. Perhaps the knowledge that everything on the outside kept going on without him is partially why he chose to make good use of his time while incarcerated.

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Soering became a writer who "maintained his innocence in a series of books and public statements spanning three decades," per The New Yorker. It didn't take long for Soering to understand how things work, meaning any hope of getting out was rooted largely in politics of the time. After being rejected by the parole board 14 times, it was granted after "the Democrats flipped the Virginia General Assembly from Republican to Democrat." That hardly seems like a coincidence.

As of the time of this writing, Soering hosts a podcast with Dominik Simmen, "a singer, musician, and psychology major at the University of Kiel," per Captivate FM. On the podcast they "talk about all kinds of social issues and current events, not just their experiences with TV casting shows and high security prisons. Despite their vastly different ages and backgrounds, they keep finding parallels and connections." All you need is a mic and an idea!

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