RICHMOND — One of the special parole conditions imposed on Jens Soering and Elizabeth Haysom — who were convicted in the 1985 slaying of Haysom’s parents — is that they remain in custody until they have left the country.
“You are on Parole Supervision for life and as a condition of your parole you are forever forbidden from remaining in or returning to the United States or any U.S Territory,” according to the conditions released Wednesday by Adrianne Bennett, chair of the Virginia Parole Board.
If either Soering or Haysom ever returns to the U.S., he or she will be in violation of parole and a warrant will be issued for an arrest, according to the conditions.
Soering and Haysom were granted parole on Monday and were to be released to immigration officials for deportation to Germany and Canada, respectively.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Tuesday took custody of Soering. “For operational security, ICE does not discuss details of impending removals until after they are completed,” said Carissa Cutrell, a spokeswoman for ICE.
“ICE is currently interviewing the other individual [Haysom] to determine alienage and removability,” Cutrell said.
Bennett said Soering and Haysom were both picked up from their prisons before 10 a.m. Tuesday.
She acknowledged there has been criticism in the Bedford County area and elsewhere of the parole of Soering and Haysom.
In a statement Wednesday, Bennett wrote: “We regret that the decision to release and permanently deport Jens Soering and Elizabeth Haysom has been difficult for many in the Bedford community. I want to assure you that we are in direct contact with the Haysom family and remain in place to support them.”
Bennett wrote that many inmates who have been granted parole have, like Soering, 53, and Haysom, 55, served decades in prison after committing violent offenses in their youth.
Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, said: “Soering’s release underlines how arbitrary and unfair parole is. The parole board said that he did it, but then released him anyway and doing so at the exact same time as Ms. Haysom, who had been give a shorter sentence originally and fully accepted responsibility for what she did. Soering’s release demonstrates that if you have powerful enough friends, your sentence will not be set by a jury of citizens or by the judge that heard the case, it will be set by five governor’s appointees decades after the event.”
“They even ordered him to be on good behavior but God knows how even they think that could possibly be enforced,” Bell said.
Soering was sentenced to two life terms for first-degree murder and Haysom was sentenced to 90 years as an accessory for the 1985 slayings of Derek and Nancy Haysom, who were stabbed to death in their Bedford County home.
Soering was 18 and Haysom was 20 when the two University of Virginia students committed the slayings.
Haysom pleaded guilty and testified against Soering, who first confessed but later recanted and for decades has been trying to prove he is innocent. Bennett said a years-long investigation by the parole board found no merit to the innocence claims.
But the parole board cited their youth at the time of the crimes, clean prison records and the time they have already served as reasons for granting parole.
Because the murders took place before parole ended for crimes committed on or after Jan. 1, 1995, they were both eligible for parole.
When making parole decisions, the parole board reviews the sentencing guidelines that courts are required to consider under the current law, Bennett wrote.
“The sentencing guidelines recommend an average sentence of 33 years and 3 months,” Bennett wrote. “They have served just shy of 34 years.”
However, the sentencing guidelines are not binding on a judge and the maximum sentence for first-degree murder in Virginia is life.
And Soering was tried by a jury — not a judge — that recommended that the two life sentences were imposed. Judges then, and now, rarely depart from the sentence recommended by a jury.
The special parole conditions for the two are the same except that Soering is to have no direct or third-party contact — including through his legal counsel or advocates — with the surviving Haysom family members.
Bennett noted that some Haysom family members are attempting to rebuild their relationship with Elizabeth Haysom, so her contact with them will be left to the discretion of the family.