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

DATE: SATURDAY, June 2, 1990                   TAG: 9006020220
DATELINE: BEDFORD                                LENGTH: Medium


Attorneys picked 14 Nelson County residents Friday to serve as jurors in Jens Soering's trial for the killings of his former girlfriend's parents.

Though some had predicted jury selection would take several days and involve a large pool of candidates, attorneys spent only six hours questioning 41 people Friday before settling on 12 jurors and two alternates.

In questioning the prospective jurors in groups of three, Soering's attorneys focused on publicity surrounding the case.

Only a handful said they had not heard of the case.

"Who hasn't in the state of Virginia?" said a 42-year-old licensed practical nurse from Piney River.

Soering, a 23-year-old former University of Virginia honors student, has made headlines since he was charged four years ago with the 1985 deaths of Nancy and Derek Haysom. Soering's former girlfriend, Elizabeth Haysom, is serving a 90-year sentence for helping to plot her parents' deaths.

In a barely audible voice, Soering pleaded not guilty to the killings as his trial opened Friday morning.

Despite media reports about the case, most of the jurors said they had not drawn any conclusions from what they had read, seen or heard.

A maintenance man from Roseland, who said he had read extensively about the case, told the attorneys, "This gentleman is innocent today." He said he would not find Soering guilty unless Commonwealth's Attorney James Updike convinced him of that beyond a reasonable doubt.

Those who said their minds were already made up - by what they had seen on television or in their morning paper - were stricken as potential jurors by Circuit Judge William Sweeney.

One man from Massie Mill was removed after he told the judge what conclusion he had drawn from the "daily" reports he read: "I would think he's guilty," he said.

Sweeney brought in Nelson County residents to hear the case because he said publicity about the case could make finding a jury from Bedford County difficult.

Earlier this week, Sweeney had rejected a motion from Soering's attorney, Rick Neaton, who argued that Nelson County residents also had been exposed to a mass of publicity in the case and should not serve as jurors, either.

Soering, who wore blue jeans to all 10 of his pretrial motions hearing, wore a blue blazer, tie, khaki slacks and a new haircut to court on Friday.

His father, Klaus Soering, and younger brother, Kai, were in court for the first time.

Klaus Soering, who worked at the West German embassy in Detroit at the time of the killings, is now stationed in Mauritania on the coast of Africa. Kai Soering is a law student in Bonn.

Pretrial arguments over the admissibility of testimony about a bloody sock print - expected to be important prosecution evidence - are set for Monday morning.

A state laboratory technician has ruled that a bloody sock print found near the Haysoms' bodies probably belonged to Soering.

Soering's defense attorneys have filed a motion questioning the reliability of such testing and asking that the test results not be allowed as evidence.

Opening arguments are scheduled to begin Monday afternoon.

All in all, Sweeney said he expects the case to last from 10 days to two weeks. But, he said Friday, he can make no promises. "There are probably some who might think it will take all summer."

 by CNB