Roanoke Times
                 Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: SUNDAY, April 1, 1990                   TAG: 9004010154
DATELINE: BEDFORD                                LENGTH: Long


Until recently, there was little question about Elizabeth Haysom's whereabouts on the weekend her parents were slashed to death five years ago.

Haysom's account, accepted by prosecutors, has been that she waited in Washington, D.C., while her boyfriend, Jens Soering, drove to her parents' home in Boonsboro on the eastern edge of Bedford County.

In Soering's murder trial, Haysom's testimony is expected to play a central role in attempting to prove the prosecution's theory that it was Soering who killed Derek and Nancy Haysom the night of March 30, 1985. But Soering's attorneys may challenge her story.

Soering's attorneys have yet to spell out their strategy. They have, however, hinted at one possible theory they may try to argue: That Elizabeth Haysom - not Soering - killed her parents.

At first look, the theory may seem hard for a jury to swallow.

Bedford County Commonwealth's Attorney James Updike has had five years to build a case against Soering, a former University of Virginia honors student and West German national extradited from Great Britain in January.

Updike will have the testimony of Soering's alleged accomplice in planning the killings, Elizabeth Haysom. The prosecutor also will have as evidence a bloodstained sock print inside the Haysoms' home that has been linked to Soering. He will have Soering's own incriminating statements that he was at the murder scene and saw two bodies there when he left.

But the defense would not need to prove that Elizabeth Haysom killed her parents. Soering's attorneys would need only to make that possibility believable - and plant a "reasonable doubt" about Soering's guilt in jurors' minds. The attorneys may try to use some intriguing evidence found at the Haysoms' cottage-style house to make their theory seem possible.

Before a judge ordered attorneys not to discuss Soering's case outside the courtroom, his attorneys said he would plead not guilty to the two first-degree murder charges he faces.

Since then, Soering's attorneys have launched a vigorous defense, filing motion after motion - to exclude from the trial the judge, any Bedford County jury, the bloodstained sock print and Soering's own incriminating statements to police.

Defense attorneys Rick Neaton and William Cleaveland have yet to give Updike evidence they plan to use in the trial, which should include an alibi stating where Soering was the weekend of the killings if he wasn't at the Haysoms' house.

Indications that the attorneys will implicate Haysom, however, have come out in court documents and statements made during motion hearings.

The first hint came when Neaton and Cleaveland filed a motion asking Circuit Judge William Sweeney to remove himself from the case, a request Sweeney later denied.

In the motion, the attorneys argued that Sweeney had prejudged Soering's case because the judge had accepted Elizabeth Haysom's guilty plea in 1987.

Haysom pleaded guilty to being an accessory before the fact in her parents' slashing deaths and was sentenced to 90 years in prison. Because she was already tried under the murder statute, Haysom cannot face any further murder charges in the case, regardless of any new evidence that might be revealed in Soering's trial.

In the motion hearing, the prosecution contended that Haysom and Soering planned the murders during their freshman year at UVa and set up an alibi with the weekend trip to Washington. Saturday evening, March 30, Soering drove alone to Boonsboro to carry out the murders and Haysom waited for him to drive back to their Washington hotel room that night, the prosecution argued.

In their motion, Soering's attorneys contended that Sweeney had endorsed the prosecution's theory that "Elizabeth Haysom was not present in her parents' home at the time of the murders." The attorneys went on to argue that Sweeney had endorsed Elizabeth Haysom's credibility on the issue of whether she was merely an accessory before the fact or "a participant in some other degree."

By singling out that detail - Elizabeth Haysom's role in the killings - Neaton and Cleaveland seem poised to dispute it.

To develop an argument that Elizabeth Haysom could have killed her parents, the defense attorneys would need to counteract Soering's 1986 statements to police in which he said emphatically that Haysom did not go with him to her parents' house.

It is not clear whether Soering will testify at his trial, but in another pretrial hearing Soering said he had told the police "lies" about Haysom's role during those 1986 statements.

"I started then telling lies about Elizabeth's involvement to clear her name and keep her out of it as much as I could," Soering told Updike in the hearing last month.

In his closing argument at that hearing, Neaton said Soering had a reason to lie about Elizabeth Haysom's role.

In taped interviews with London police in 1986, Soering indicated that he believed that he, as a West German national, might not be tried in the United States, where he could face capital murder charges. But Soering believed that his girlfriend could indeed be tried here, Neaton said.

"If he [Soering] knows that Elizabeth Haysom committed the murder, she would face the electric chair," Neaton said. "And that would give him reason to make her an accessory after the fact" rather than see her face such dire consequences.

If the defense attorneys do argue that Haysom was at her parents' Boonsboro house that weekend in 1985, they also are likely to argue that Soering was not there. It would not appear to help their case to contend that both Haysom and Soering were at the house during the stabbings.

If Soering did not carry out the killings but was in the house, he could still be convicted of being an accessory before the fact, which carries the same sentence as the charges he now faces. Charges of first-degree murder and accessory before the fact each carry a maximum life sentence.

Whatever happens at the trial, Soering's attorneys may already have won their biggest victory before the case even came back to Bedford County.

Soering and Elizabeth Haysom left UVa suddenly in October 1985 to wander around Europe. After the couple was arrested in London on unrelated credit-card charges in May 1986, police there contacted Bedford County authorities.

Soering fought extradition to the United States until last year, when the British government decided to allow him to be tried here on the condition that he not face the death penalty. That meant that Updike cannot try him on the capital murder charges for which he originally was indicted. Now Soering faces two counts of first-degree murder and a maximum punishment of two life sentences in prison.

If they contend that Elizabeth Haysom killed her parents, Soering's defense attorneys may try to use some physical evidence found at the Boonsboro house to boost their case.

Most bloodstains found in the Haysoms' cottage matched the blood types of either Soering, Derek Haysom or Nancy Haysom. But one stain found on the edge of a washcloth in the Haysoms' kitchen washing machine matched Elizabeth Haysom's blood type, but not the blood types of Soering or either of the victims.

And tests showed that two fingerprints found on an Absolut vodka bottle in the family's living room matched Elizabeth Haysom's. The prosecution would probably be quick to point out that the print was not in blood and that fingerprints can last a long time, so Haysom could have left her fingerprint there on any number of occasions.

Elizabeth Haysom's claim that she was not at the murder scene has been questioned before.

Her brother, Howard Haysom, testified at her 1987 sentencing that he believed she was continuing to tell lies about the killing. Howard Haysom, a Houston doctor, said he believed Elizabeth Haysom was at the house on the night of the killings, despite contentions from both the prosecution and her defense attorneys that she was not there.

The prosecutor never asked Howard Haysom to clarify his remarks, and he refused to answer questions from reporters after he left the courtroom that day. Reached by telephone this week, Elizabeth Haysom's brother again declined to explain for the record what caused him to think that.

He said has not changed his mind, though. "I am firmly of the opinion that she was there."

 by CNB