Copyright (c) 1996, Roanoke Times

DATE: Thursday, November 21, 1996            TAG: 9611210055


IF LAB TESTS link the Buck knife taken from a pair of drifters to the 1985 murders of Derek and Nancy Haysom, Jens Soering could go free.

A knife reportedly confiscated in 1985 from two drifters who later stabbed a Roanoke man to death will be tested to see if it could be the weapon that killed Boonsboro couple Derek and Nancy Haysom.

In an unusual development in Jens Soering's appeal of his conviction for murdering the Haysoms, Bedford County Circuit Judge William Sweeney ordered Monday that the knife be sent to state forensic labs in Richmond, where it will be tested for the presence of human blood and compared with samples of blood from the Haysoms.

An evidentiary hearing is scheduled Dec. 9 for Soering, 30, a former University of Virginia honor student who is serving a double life sentence for the March 1985 stabbings of his girlfriend's parents in their Bedford County home.

Soering claims he is innocent and has said he thinks the murder was committed by his former girlfriend, Elizabeth Haysom - who is serving a 90-year sentence for accessory to murder - and accomplices unknown to him.

Soering is seeking a new trial on grounds that Bedford police and then-prosecutor Jim Updike withheld evidence about the knife and the two drifters from defense attorneys during his 1990 trial.

A former Bedford County deputy, George Anderson of Montvale, says he stopped hitchhikers William L. Shifflett and Robert Lewis Albright on a highway near the Haysom home shortly after the Haysoms' bodies were discovered.

Anderson has told Soering's attorney that while he questioned the men, one of them hid a folding Buck knife in the back of his patrol car. Anderson confiscated the knife and has had it in his personal possession for the past decade.

A day or so later, on April 6, 1985, Shifflett and Albright stabbed to death 58-year-old drifter Marvin Franklin Milliken. When Shifflett was arrested, he had another large folding knife in his possession similar to the one Anderson said he had confiscated.

Shifflett, 37, and Albright, 34, are serving multiple life sentences and will not be eligible for parole until 2002. Albright is in Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, and Shifflett is at Keen Mountain Correctional Center, where Soering is incarcerated.

Answering a subpoena from the state attorney general's office last month, Anderson turned over the knife, and state medical examiners have said it is consistent with the type of knife that could have been used in the Haysom murders.

While Assistant State Medical Examiner Dr. David Oxley said there was little similarity between the stab wounds of the Haysoms and Milliken - Milliken's throat was not cut as the Haysoms' were, and they were not sexually mutilated as Milliken was - Oxley wrote: "It is our opinion that the knife or a knife like it would have been capable of inflicting the slash and stab wounds present on Mr. and Mrs. Haysom."

However, Oxley said, at least one of the wounds on Nancy Haysom appeared to be too deep to have been caused by the knife Anderson said he had confiscated.

Shifflett's and Albright's fingerprints were compared with unidentified prints found at the Haysom murder scene and were eliminated. That information was admitted into evidence at Soering's trial and was given to his defense. Soering's fingerprints were not found at the scene.

Until recently, Soering's attorney, Gail Marshall, was unaware that Shifflett's and Albright's prints were part of the trial record, and she was seeking them from the Department of Corrections and the Bedford County Sheriff's Office, claiming they had been withheld or overlooked.

"To me, she didn't do her homework," said Sgt. Ricky Gardner, chief investigator in the Haysom murders. "She was saying why didn't we fingerprint these guys, and she was demanding we turn over this to her. Well, we did do it."

Gardner said he had no knowledge of the knife being taken from the two men. The Sheriff's Office has said it has no paperwork from Anderson's stop.

Gardner said he has inspected the knife and its crevices "were clean as a whistle. If that knife had been used in a murder, it must have really been cleaned out."

Marshall said she would expect a murderer to clean a weapon after using it. "I don't think the absence of blood proves anything," she said. "But if there is blood, and it matches the Haysoms', that would be highly relevant to proving the innocence of Jens Soering."

LENGTH: Medium:   86 lines
ILLUSTRATION: PHOTO:  (headshot) Jens Soering. color.

by CNB