Criminal Law, Evidence, Murder, Police and Prosecutors, Soering

10 Söring Myths, Part 4: The FBI Profile

Welcome to Part 4 in my little series of Ten Söring Myths. These are intended as a teaser for a very long article (over 15,000 words) which will shortly appear in German in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The article discusses a 454-page report authored by retired Scotland Yard detective Terry Wright, which exhaustively analyzes claims made by Jens Söring during his trial and appeals. Wright initially investigated Söring in 1986, testified at his trials, and has access to many primary documents.

One of the most-repeated claims of Jens Söring’s supporters is that the FBI created a psychological profile of the killer of Derek and Nancy Haysom, and that this profile pointed a female who was “very closely related” to the Haysoms as the possible killer. The online document “The Soering Case Made Simple” (TSCMS) devotes 14 pages to the “FBI profile” which “pointed at Elizabeth Haysom as the killer.” TSCMS describes everything about this profile: who asked for it, who created it, what its main conclusions were, etc. Yet one thing is oddly missing from the discussion: the profile itself.

That’s because the profile does not exist. What happened is the following: Shortly after the bodies of the Haysoms were discovered, someone from the Bedford County Sheriff’s office, probably former Sheriff Carl Wells, were thinking about asking the FBI to create an offender profile. As part of the preliminaries, Ed Sulzbach, an FBI profiler, visited the crime scene at Loose Chippings. (We don’t know exactly when.) This is hardly unexpected, the crime scene was only 3 hours’ drive from FBI Headquarters at Quantico, Virginia. Sulzbach created some notes in which he provisionally guessed that a female who was “closely related” to the Haysoms may have committed the crime.

That is all that occurred. No FBI profile was ever created. We know this for a fact, because asking the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit to create a formal offender profile is a complex procedure which generates mountains of paperwork. As Bedford County Sheriff’s Deputy Ricky Gardner put it:

They can’t find it because it was never done. And I’ll tell you why I know it was never done. We talked about doing it, and it was volumes of paperwork… It would have taken three college professors to fill out the questionnaires that you had to do, and we just didn’t take the time to do that…”

Terry Wright, the retired Scotland Yard detective whose new report refutes Jens Soering’s innocence claims, confirms that no report existed. He can state this with confidence because he spent years working at FBI Headquarters in Quantico, Virginia as a liaison officer to the UK Metropolitan Police. If the FBI had created an official suspect profile, it would certainly have kept a copy. It didn’t, because no report was ever created. Only a few preliminary notes were made.

Söring’s supporters point to the following documents, released from the FBI pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request, to support their claim that a profiled was created:

Profile - teleptinter message

We don’t know who wrote the May 8, 1995 teletype, but they were misinformed. No profile was ever created. Ed Sulzbach, who was interviewed for the film “The Promise“, claimed decades later that his profile pointed to Elizabeth Haysom. In the film, he says: “I settled on the daughter.” We can’t know for sure exactly what Sulzbach’s reasoning was, since he has since died, and no report was ever created which would embody his (and other consulting experts’) conclusions. But wait: what about those whited-out portions of the telex? Do they point to Elizabeth Haysom? No. Here is a draft affidavit which was apparently created by Bedford County District Attorney Jim Updike:

Profile - Updike draft affidavit

This is a draft affidavit. What this means is that prosecutor Updike was preparing to create a sworn statement to present to a judge so that the judge would issue an warrant — an official judicial order — of some sort. The warrant might have been for the arrest of “Mary”, or perhaps for a search of her home looking for evidence of her involvement in the killings. To get such warrants, the police or prosecutor must show “probable cause” — i.e. an initial showing of proof that a person was involved in a crime, or that a location may contain evidence relating to a crime. In this draft affidavit, Updike (or whomever drafted it) is clearly trying to show probable cause for some sort of further action to investigate “Mary”. “Mary” is not Elizabeth Haysom. Mary was a local person with mental health problems. The person referred to in the Telex was Mary, not Elizabeth Haysom. Mary was later definitively ruled out as a suspect.

One more thing needs to be said about the profile. In TSCMS, Söring claims that the FBI profile was exculpatory evidence which the prosecution should have turned over to the defense. Needless to say, this discussion is moot, because no profile was ever created. However, even if it had been created, it would not have been exculpatory evidence. In the landmark case Brady v. United States, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the prosecution must always reveal “exculpatory evidence” to the defense before, during, or after a criminal trial. Exculpatory evidence is evidence which “is favorable to the defense and material to the defendant’s guilt or punishment.”

“Material” means that exculpatory evidence must be admissible in court. The Supreme Court has held that there is no violation of the rule in Brady where the evidence would have been inadmissible during trial. In a 1995 case involving a polygraph examination (these are not admissible in court), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “the information at issue here, then—the results of a polygraph examination of one of the witnesses—is not ‘evidence’ at all. Disclosure of the polygraph results, then, could have had no direct effect on the outcome of trial, because respondent could have made no mention of them either during argument or while questioning witnesses.” Psychological profiles of as-yet-unidentified criminal offenders, like lie-detector tests, are not admissible in court. These profiles are intended solely as aids to ongoing investigations. They are based in large part upon speculation and guesswork, which are obviously not categories of admissible evidence. It’s a good thing, too, since offender profiles are often wrong. One recent review of the literature concluded: “The limited evidence suggests that police officers think that [profiling] is a useful investigative tool, but the empirical evidence does not support the scientific validity of profilers’ predictive abilities.”

So, to sum up: 1. No FBI profile was ever created; 2. The initial notes for a possible later profile didn’t point to Elizabeth Haysom, but rather to another person who was subsequently eliminated as a suspect; and 3. Even if a report had been created, it would not have been admissible evidence, and therefore is irrelevant to Söring’s trial and guilt.

2 thoughts on “10 Söring Myths, Part 4: The FBI Profile”

  1. I obtained an unedited transcript of the interview the producers of the Soering docu-drama (“The Promise”) did with former FBI Ed Sulzbach. The transcript shows what the producers avoided revealing in the carefully chosen excerpts shown of the interview in their propaganda film: at the time the interview was done, Mr. Sulzbach did not doubt that Jens Soering was the actual killer.

    1. I cannot make up my mind about what actually happened.
      The manner in which Jodi Arias despatched her boyfriend is strikingly similar.
      Many many stab wounds and then the throat deliberately slashed post mortem (followed by a gunshot to the head – only difference)
      Ferocious, personal, tremendous anger and intimate.
      Hallmarks of a vengeful female?
      The porch light points to Soring, but was he so angry?
      Unless it was the alcohol? He admitted to once becoming very aggressive when under the influence earlier in his life.

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