FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — Virginia granted parole on Monday to a German diplomat’s son who was serving a life sentence for the 1985 killings of his girlfriend’s parents.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s office said the state parole board granted Jens Soering parole for the murders of Nancy and Derek Haysom. The board had rejected his 14 previous parole requests.
The parole board did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday. In a statement, board chair Adrianne Bennett said “the parole board has determined that releasing Jens Soering and Elizabeth Haysom … is appropriate because of their youth at the time of the offenses, their institutional adjustment and the length of their incarceration.
“The release and permanent expulsion from the United States is an enormous cost-benefit to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Virginia and we have determined that their release does not pose a public safety risk to the community,” Bennett said.
Soering’s lawyer, Steven Rosenfield, said he had not received notice of the parole board’s decision and declined further comment. In previous parole applications, Rosenfield said his client had been a model prisoner and planned to live in Germany if paroled.
Soering initially confessed to the killings but later recanted, saying he was covering for girlfriend, Elizabeth Haysom. She also was granted parole Monday. She had been serving a 90-year sentence after pleading guilty to being an accessory to murder and testifying against Soering at is trial.
German officials have sought Soering’s release. Multiple governors, including Northam, rejected his bids for pardons or clemency.
Northam’s office says both Soering and Haysom will be deported and unable to return to the U.S.
Northam, a Democrat, “respects the Parole Board’s expertise and appreciates their work on this and all other cases,” the governor’s office said in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Ben Cline, R-Va., whose district includes the Bedford County community where the Haysoms were murdered, issued a statement Monday saying he is “shocked and appalled by the Virginia State Parole Board’s decision to grant parole. … The impact of the Haysoms’ murder is still felt by the Bedford community today. This decision, based not on any remorse by the murderers for their crimes, but instead on some supposed cost-benefit to Virginia, is an insult to the families of the victims and to the principles of justice and the rule of law.”
The Bedford County Sheriff’s Office did not return a call seeking comment.
Virginia abolished parole in 1995, but those who were convicted before then are still eligible to seek parole.
Soering, now 53, was 18 at the time of the killings.
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 Elizabeth Haysom, who has Type B blood.
In 2010, as he was leaving office, then-Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, submitted a plan to the Justice department that would have allowed Soering to serve the remainder of his sentence in Germany. Under the plan, Soering would have been eligible for release in Germany after two years there.
But Kaine’s successor — Bob McDonnell, a Republican —revoked the request.
The parole board most recently denied Soering’s parole request in January. At the time, it cited the seriousness of his crime and said “Release at this time would diminish seriousness of crime,” according to board documents.
The slayings were particularly violent, with both victims having their throats slashed and collectively being stabbed nearly 50 times. After the killings, Soering and Elizabeth Haysom fled overseas and were arrested in London. Soering fought his extradition for several years, but Elizabeth Haysom did not. At Soering’s trial, she testified that she manipulated Soering into committing the killings because the parents wanted to end their daughter’s relationship with Soering.
Soering testified that Haysom committed the killings, then persuaded him to confess.
Associated Press writer Alan Suderman contributed to this report from Richmond.