Welcome to Part 6 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.
Now we come to one of my favorite parts of the Söring Saga, Tony Buchanan’s Bloody Car.
The year now is 2011, 21 years after Jens Söring’s trial. Söring has filed a direct appeal and at least two post-conviction petitions, all of which have been denied. Nothing much is happening in the case. And then suddenly Tony Buchanan shows up. Tony Buchanan owned a transmission repair service in 1985, the year Nancy and Derek Haysom were killed (on March 30). This is what Buchanan had to say, in a sworn affidavit dated March 10, 2011, which you can read online here (pdf):
2. That he owned and operated ACS transmissions, Inc. in March 1970 until April 2005, and,
3. That approximately three to five months after the murders of Derek and Nancy Haysom he was present in his shop when a light colored car, (the same shape as a two door Nova or Camero [sic]) was towed in for repairs by Bubbas Towing, and
4. That the stated vehicle’s undercarriage was covered with lots of grass and mud and appeared to have been sitting in the woods for a while, and
5. That he observed what appeared to be dried blood present on the front driver’s seat floor mat and dried blood on a knife which was by the console between the seats on the same floor mat. and
6. That a young girl and young gentleman came into his shop to pick up the car and pay for its repairs, and
7. That the young girl presented a credit card for payment, but the payment was denied. She called a relative in Florida and she found that a stop pay was on the account. After the phone call the account was reactivated and the charge went through, and
8. That the young girl indicated that the car was owned by the young gentleman she was with, and
9. That a few months later he saw a picture of Elizabeth Haysom in the media and recognized her as the young girl who had brought in the car with the bloody knife, and
10. Later he saw a picture in the media of Jens Soering and realized that the young gentleman whose car he repaired was not that man, and
11. That young gentleman whom he had seen with Elizabeth Haysom had “highlighted” hair and did not look anything like Jens Soering.
Söring’s lawyer created a sworn affidavit to memorialize Buchanan’s testimony, as we lawyers like to say. With the 2011 Tony Buchanan affidavit, hope flickered once again that there might be some sort of elusive proof of the involvement of male accomplices in the murder of the Haysoms. As we’ve seen, Jens Söring said in his 1995 book “Mortal Thoughts” that Elizabeth Haysom, acting alone, personally killed both her parents. According to Söring, she became so covered in blood as she hacked her parents to death that she had to change her clothes — but even then, still had visible “blood” on her forearms.
And Söring stuck with this story until, well, shortly later in 1995, when the knife possessed by the Deadly Drifters was discovered. We looked at this intriguing episode in Myth 5. As of later in 1995, the new version of what happened put forward by Team Söring is that Elizabeth didn’t act alone, but rather had at least one male accomplice. However, after all the courts dismissed the involvement of the Deadly Drifters, things seemed to be at a dead end. There was just no evidence of any accomplices. Perhaps Team Söring was going to have to return to Söring’s 1995 version, in which Elizabeth Haysom killed her own parents. That wasn’t a very encouraging state of affairs, since very few people were willing to believe a diminutive (5’4″; 110 lbs, according to her booking records in London in 1986) 20-year-old girl could, or would, stab and mutilate her own parents, nearly beheading her father.
So Team Söring was delighted by the Tony Buchanan affidavit — finally, a suggestion, however flimsy, of a male accomplice. How persuasive is Buchanan’s affidavit? Not very. First, there’s the matter of Buchanan’s overall credibility. A New Yorker reporter interviewed Buchanan and discovered some rather alarming things:
“Now, first things first,” [Buchanan] said crisply. “Let’s see some identification.” I fished around in pockets and came up with a business card. Buchanan scrutinized it for a long time. Then he reached into the back of his pants and drew a semiautomatic gun.
“You understand,” he said. “This is because I don’t know who you really are.”
Buchanan sat and laid the gun down on the coffee table in front of him. Sometimes, as we spoke, he’d reach forward and touch it, as if about to take it up. “No way—that little S.O.B. with his glasses was not in the shop,” he said, of Soering. The guy with the bloody car had hair that was parted on the side but long in front. “When Soering’s picture come in the paper, he didn’t have no hair over like that,” Buchanan said. Then he leaned toward me with a grin I could not read. “The guy in the shop with her looked like you.”
Buchanan picked up his weapon and, without explanation, left the room. He came back with a binder. Inside were photographs that Soering’s supporters had sent him for identification. Buchanan had cartooned crazy droopy hair on most of them.
But even if what Buchanan says in the affidavit is true, it raises many more questions than it answers. First, why did Buchanan wait 26 years to come forward? Why would Elizabeth switch cars from the rental car to this other car before killing her parents? Why would she allow a car filled with evidence which could send her to the electric chair to simply lie around somewhere for 3-5 months without cleaning it? Why would she bring a car filled with this murder evidence to a complete stranger for repairs? Why would she appear in person to do this, and pay for these repairs with a credit card which could easily be traced to her?
Where was the car for all that time? And if the car’s transmission was broken and it needed to be towed, then how did she use it to get to and from her parent’s house? Assuming the car only broke down and became undrivable after she killed her parents, why and where and when did this happen? Also, why would there be blood in this car? Under Söring’s theory, Elizabeth killed her own parents in her own home. In her own home she could have easily cleaned up and put on some of her own fresh clothes. In fact Söring says she did change her clothes before returning to Washington, DC. She could have removed any bloody items by putting them in a black plastic garbage bag, as Söring said he did. There was no reason for the car she used to get bloody.
None of these questions have convincing answers. This is the typical pattern of Söring’s supporters — they seize on any piece of evidence which seems to support an alternative theory of the case, even when (1) it makes little sense, and (2) conflicts with their other prior theories of the case. Beggars can’t be choosers, they’ll accept anything. Then they simply retcon their preferred alternative theory by adding in the new information and trying to reconcile it with their previous versions of events.
Actually, this is not so much retconning as HARKing: Hypothesizing After the Results are Known. Now that we “know” that Elizabeth Haysom hid a bloody car for “3-5 months” after her parents were murdered, we need to figure out how to piece the bloody car into some sort of narrative of Söring’s innocence. This is why, on many Söring forums and websites, you can see people spinning out bizarre alternate histories in which Elizabeth Haysom (1) drives her and Jens’ rental car to Lynchburg, then (2) joins some of her “drug scene” friends in their car, then (3) kills her parents; then (4) ditches the accomplices’ car for some reason, destroying its transmission in the process, then (5) leaves the car in a field somewhere, still covered in the Haysoms’ blood and with the murder weapon still inside it, then (6) returns to Washington, DC in the rental car, and then (7) returns 3-5 months later to retrieve the bloody car and have it repaired by a total stranger without having it cleaned, with the blood and the murder weapon still inside it, and (8) hands over the evidence-filled car to a stranger in person, using a credit card which can be traced to her.
All of this frankly silly speculation is needed to fit the Bloody Car into the 4th (or 5th) revised alternate story. The pattern is consistent: with every additional piece of new information alternate theory of Söring’s innocence actually becomes weaker. The sum of all the new information adds up to less than the whole of its parts, because the new information points in all different directions, not in the direction of a single consistent plausible alternate narrative. This is how you distinguish false claims of innocence from true ones. In true actual-innocence cases, the new pieces of information fit into a consistent alternative pattern. Here’s an excellent example, the brilliant demolition of the case against (former) Mississippi death-row inmate Curtis Flowers in the American Public Media podcast “In the Dark”, one of the greatest pieces of investigative journalism this new century has produced. In “In the Dark”, the state’s case collapses, and the pieces all fit into an overall narrative pointing away from Flowers as the killer. In Jens Söring’s case, alas, the supposed “new evidence” points in all conceivable directions, and does almost nothing to undermine the state’s original evidence.
Stay tuned for Söring Myths Part 7: The Mysterious Murder Weapon.