First, the newest episode of the Söring podcast Small Town Big Crime is out. Listen to it here, and contribute on Patreon here. In this episode, called “The Reckoning”, we finally find out whether William Shifflett’s DNA matched any of the “two unknown men” who supposedly bled at the crime scene.
I confidently predicted that it would not match in a post from a week ago. This post explains why. As I noted before, it seems likely the new Söring documentary on German public television will make a to-do about the DNA evidence in the Jens Söring case. The previous feature-length documentary Killing for Love was released in 2016, before Söring’s experts had had a chance to weigh in on the DNA and the blood typing evidence. As a result, the only mention of DNA in the movie was in one title card showing during the end credits of the movie. As one might expect, the title card was inaccurate. The new German ZDFINFo documentary gives Team Söring a chance to raise their post-2016 argument that the DNA evidence in the Söring case “proves” the presence of two unidentified males who bled at the crime scene. These arguments were carefully considered by the Virginia Parole Board, which properly rejected them. But Söring’s new strategy is to try to get the pardon from the German media which the Virginia authorities denied him. Thus, we’ll surely hear more about the “two strange men” in the coming episodes of the documentary.
The only problem is, there are no two strange men. There is no evidence that anyone except Söring and the Haysoms bled at the crime scene. Söring’s partisan experts did their best to make this case, but the evidence has never convinced a single independent expert. In my 23,000+ word January 2020 article (g) on the Söring case for the FAZ, I explained why this is. I am not a microbiologist or DNA expert, but I have worked with DNA in my past career as a lawyer and I’m also fascinated by DNA evidence in general. And the basic principle of forensic DNA fingerprinting (cumulative probability) isn’t all that hard to grasp.
So first I will post the excerpt of the FAZ article here, in my English translation from my German original. I have made a few edits for clarity, and changed a few links. After the excerpt from the FAZ article, I’ll discuss some new information, including more information from one of the experts whose work I discussed in the FAZ piece, and Söring’s futile quest to find German-speaking experts to bolster his claims. If you’ve already read my FAZ piece, feel free to skip down to the section starting with “Was I Right?”
1. Excerpt from the January 22, 2020 FAZ article
DNA: The Two Unknown Men Who Don’t Exist
Both Sheriff Harding’s letter to the editor and the Wright report discuss DNA evidence first. This is appropriate: DNA comparisons, when carried out correctly, are extremely reliable and have revealed over 300 miscarriages of justice in the USA alone. Söring’s supporters claim that the DNA evidence in his case proved his innocence or raised serious doubts about his guilt. In the words of Sheriff Harding (HB 3) “If you look at the results of blood tests, including serology tests, you get scientific results that indicate that two unidentified men bled at the scene.” This assertion is crucial – from a forensic point of view more important than any other of Söring’s claims. If it is true that two strange men were at the crime scene the verdict in the Söring case would indeed be fatally weakened. At the very least, Söring would have to be given a new trial. Söring and his followers are, of course, aware of the enormous persuasive power of DNA results. In every interview, Söring is the first to invoke the “exculpatory DNA evidence” when his case discussed. The subject therefore deserves a detailed overall assessment. Wright delivers just this: His analysis of the DNA results alone extends over almost 100 pages. Accordingly, the discussion in this article will also be detailed.
To support his claim, Söring’s lawyers obtained two opinions from respected experts: Dr. Moses Schanfield, Forensics Professor at George Washington University, and Dr. J. Thomas McClintock, Forensics Professor at Liberty University. Both are partisan experts; this means that they were not appointed and paid by the court, but rather by Söring’s lawyers or supporters. By no means does this mean their statements are wrong or misleading — but it does mean that they are one-sided. As always with partisan expert opinions, the focus is exclusively on facts or conclusions that support the client’s thesis. Both expert opinions are available on the Internet.
Thanks to his practical experience, Wright also has considerable expertise in forensic DNA analysis. Wright takes both appraisals seriously, and does not question the appraisers’ qualifications or good faith. He discusses each important blood trace individually: where it was found, how it was stored, what the blood group typing shows, what DNA results were obtained. In the end, Wright arrives at the same conclusion as all the impartial experts who looked at the documents: the DNA tests provide no evidence of Söring’s presence at the scene of the crime, but also do not indicate the presence of strange men at the scene. Wright explains why the opinions of Söring’s experts are of limited use: They wither barely addressed the DNA results (McClintock) or did not give due consideration to the fundamental difference between blood typing and DNA analysis (Schanfield).
We’ll begin with the facts. Derek and Nancy Haysom were murdered late in the evening of March 30, 1985 (or shortly after midnight); their bodies were discovered on April 3 by a friend of the couple, Annie Massie. The crime scene at Loose Chippings (the name of the small Haysom mansion) was a shocking sight. Both victims suffered multiple stab wounds; Derek Haysom was particularly badly injured. Bloodstains and pools of blood were found on chairs, tables, napkins, walls, floors, door jambs, kitchen surfaces, and other places. Large floor areas were smeared with blood. Forensic technicians collected samples of the blood stains and noted where they were found. Blood samples were also taken from the victims (later, also from Söring and Elizabeth Haysom).
In 1985, forensic DNA analysis was still in its infancy. Therefore, only ABO blood group typing was carried out (named after the antigens of the red blood cells) on the crime-scene samples. Derek Haysom had type A blood, Nancy Haysom type AB. Investigators also found traces of the type O (in Germany the number 0 is used, in America the letter O). Söring has – like about 40-45 percent of the American population at that time – blood type O. Some blood samples had blood in sufficient quantity and quality for subtyping, i.e. the detection of different forms of human enzymes in the blood (such as phosphoglucomutase, PGM, or adenosine deaminase, ADA). Subtyping can increase the precision of general typing (A, B, O, AB, etc.). Although its accuracy is by no means comparable to that of DNA, subtyping was state of the art in 1985. A critical factor, which Wright emphasizes several times, is the completely unprofessional storage of the crime-scene blood samples. During collection and processing in 1985, they were treated with care sufficient for blood group typing but by no means the level of stringent contamination controls demanded by DNA analysis (WB 25). After the process, some of the larger liquid blood samples were destroyed — a common hygienic measure, as Wright notes (WB 72). Other samples were simply stuck in the court files (or were kept privately by the serologist as mementos), and were thus exposed to decades of humidity, contamination, and temperature changes.
In 2005, Virginia launched an extraordinary initiative: the Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program and Notification Project. The project, which spanned nearly 13 years and cost $6 million, used the latest methods to evaluate evidence in hundreds of cases from before modern DNA testing. To ensure the independence of the analysis, the DNA tests were carried out by an independent laboratory. This unique project bore fruit: in twelve cases, DNA proved the innocence of prisoners. Their convictions were subsequently overturned, and the prisoners received compensation.
The evidence in the Jens Söring case came up for testing in 2009. The crime-scene samples were in the worst possible condition. Only about 15 percent of the remaining samples yielded any DNA results at all, and all results were incomplete. Further, the blood samples taken from Derek and Nancy Haysom during the autopsy had been destroyed. The few samples which yielded showed only partial profiles of different levels of completeness. However, the fragmentary profiles all matched. Thus, the lab analyst concluded the profiles came from a single male donor — most likely Derek Haysom. This is understandable: Haysom bled the most at the crime scene. There were a few samples that gave profiles of a single woman — most likely Nancy Haysom. None of the samples had a DNA profile that was comparable to Söring’s DNA. The DNA report said nothing at all about the blood group of the various samples; in 2009, forensic blood group typing was long outdated. The word “blood” does not even appear in the DNA report.
The DNA results were initially considered to be of little significance; no DNA from Söring, but also none from unexpected sources. Later, however, Söring and his lawyers compared the blood typing from 1985 with the DNA analysis from 2009. In the process, they came across something interesting: Some blood traces that had been classified as type O in 1985 – Söring’s blood group – yielded male DNA results that excluded Söring. Also, some traces of blood group AB (Nancy Haysom) produced DNA results which indicated a man – also definitely not Söring. Söring and his supporters immediately took up these anomalies: they now claimed that there were indications of a “type O unknown male” and a “type AB unknown male” at the scene of the crime. Söring’s attorney, Steven Rosenfield, asked two experts, Schanfield and McClintock, for expert opinions. Neither Schanfield nor McClintock conducted their own tests. There was no need for this: the analysis from 2009 contained all DNA results that could still be obtained. Söring’s experts therefore worked – like everyone else — exclusively on the basis of the existing documents: the blood group report from 1985 and the DNA report from 2009.
Wright also compared the reports, and immediately realized that one of the experts, Schanfield, had made a crucial mistake: Schanfield has not strictly separated the results of blood typing and DNA analysis (WB 83). Why is that important? First, because blood grouping and DNA analysis are two different procedures, each with different methods, objectives, and results. And secondly, because it may well be the case that a sample consists predominantly of blood of a certain type, but contains traces of DNA from other sources. DNA tests have become extremely sensitive since their beginnings in the 1980s. Nowadays, detectable DNA traces can be found on an object even if a person merely breathed on it. The risk of contamination is so high that extremely stringent precautions are necessary when handing samples — precautions which, as we have seen, weren’t taken in Söring’s case. An example from Germany provides a prime example of this kind of contamination: the so-called “Phantom of Heilbronn“. In the course of the investigation of a string of neo-Nazi murders, investigators came across astonishing results: female DNA traces found at the scene of the murder of a policewoman in Heilbronn, Germany, were also found at over 40 other crime scenes in southern Germany, France, and Austria. Authorities launched an international search for a one-woman crime spree, who raced from place to place committing all manner of crimes. In the end, the “suspect” was found: an employee of a packaging company for DNA testing accessories in the small German town of Tettau-Langenau. Perhaps the woman had sneezed once on a batch of cotton swabs.
Is there evidence of such contamination in the Söring case? Definitely. As Wright notes, there were eight samples that had visible blood but no DNA (WB 27-28). Conversely, there were nine cotton swabs that did not have enough blood to subtype, but still yielded DNA results (WB 28-29). Therefore, Wright concludes that contamination of many of the samples was “highly likely”. (WB 45). The circumstances at the crime scene were ideal for such contamination: During their fight to the death (Söring said that Haysom “simply did not want to lie down and die”, WB 179) between two drunken, angry, bleeding, screaming men, it is inevitably that not only blood, but also skin cells, pieces of tissue, cartilage, sweat, saliva, etc. from Söring and the Haysoms (especially Derek Haysom) were irrevocably mixed. This hopelessly contaminated mixture dripped from Söring’s knife and stuck to his fingers and hands.
Therefore, there is no necessity to doubt the reliability of blood typing or DNA analysis to understand the apparently inconsistent results. One only has to remember that DNA and blood group tests measure different properties, by different standards. The type O blood at the scene of the crime could well have come from Söring, while the still testable DNA fragments came from Derek Haysom. This scenario is by far the most likely: “The [DNA report] excludes Jens Söring and Elizabeth Haysom as the sources of the DNA. But it excludes neither of them as the source of the blood.” (WB 72).
Here Wright agrees with Betty Layne Desportes, who was the 2017-2018 President of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and worked closely with the Virginia Post-Conviction DNA Project. Desportes, a lawyer who also has a master’s degree in forensics, also compared the reports in the Söring case, and concluded that the results had very limited validity: “Have [Söring’s experts] ruled out the male victim as the contributor? Until they know that, they do not know the true probative value of this evidence.” Producers of the American news show “20/20” hired Dan Krane, professor of biology at Wright State University, to carry out an independent analysis of the documents. His conclusion: “There is no positive evidence that anyone other than the victims was at the scene.” In a powerpoint presentation, Krane explains how he came to this conclusion: “Samples 2FE and 6FE were blood type O, like Soering. However, 2FE and 6FE had the same DNA profile as Derek Haysom – but he had blood type “A”. Thus the blood samples, which allegedly came from the “type O unknown male,” contained DNA from Derek Haysom. There is almost certainly a case of contamination.
Unlike Söring’s experts, Wright, Desportes and Krane are independent. The decisive clue, as Krane notes, lies in the DNA results themselves. Human DNA contains about 20,000 genes. A person inherits one copy of a gene from the father and one from the mother; they can be identical (homozygous) or different (heterozygous). Most genes are blueprints for the production of proteins that every living being needs. Therefore, most genes are the same in all humans; far fewer than 1% vary. However, there are isolated genes or DNA sites that can have different forms. These variants are called alleles. Some of these alleles or pairs of alleles vary independently, which is a very important fact. This means that the appearance of one allele in one place has no influence on the appearance of another allele in another place – just as one roll of a die has no influence on the next roll.
In the 1980s, the British genetic researcher Sir Alec Jeffreys recognized the outstanding importance of these alleles with their many variants. Through painstaking research, he developed a reliable protocol for creating DNA “fingerprints”. Over the past decades, the frequency of different forms of these alleles in the human population has been researched in detail. We know exactly how often a particular allele occurs in certain population groups. Forensic geneticists have now identified 13 “loci” (DNA sites, plural from “locus”), which have alleles which have a particularly high number of different forms. These 13 loci can be used to create a precise profile of a person: The probability that two unrelated individuals have exactly the same alleles at all 13 loci can range from 1 in 40 million to 1 in 100 billion (depending on the profile and frequency of alleles in the relevant population group). Probabilities of this magnitude are conclusive DNA “hits” and can be used in court as conclusive proof.
But even with significantly fewer loci, technicians can arrive at a very high levels of precision. To take an extremely simplified example: A person has an allele at locus A which occurs in only 25% of the population; at locus B one which occurs in 5%; at locus C, one with 7% frequency and at locus D, one with 10% distribution. Suppose we randomly select large numbers of other people and perform a DNA test only on these 4 loci. What is the probability of finding the same allele in all four locations? The formula is: 1 / (0.25 * 0.05 * 0.07 * 0.10). The solution: 1 in 11,429. That is, as a statistical matter, only one in 11,429 people will have the same alleles at the same locations. While this result might not support a criminal conviction alone, it could be considered as strong supporting evidence, or help investigators to exclude certain suspects. With only 2 or 3 additional loci we arrive at a probability of 1 in millions.
Therefore, even incomplete DNA-profiles can develop a high level of significance. This can be explained analogous to the television show “Wheel of Fortune”. Let’s assume that the game board, shows “M _ D _ O U S _ ” Whether they are aware of it or not, viewers do exactly the same kind of probability calculation described above. The English alphabet has 26 letters. Therefore, there is a 1 in 26 chance that any letter will occur at any position. According to the principle of cumulative probability, we can calculate the probability that a certain series of letters would be chosen at random: 1/26 (first letter) * 1/26 (second letter) * 1/26 (third letter) and so on. Five digits gives a probability (1 / 26 * 26 * 26 * 26 * 26), or 1 in 11,881,376, that exactly this sequence of 5 specific letters will occur. The viewer compares this probability with his vocabulary – i.e. how many recognizable words contain exactly this sequence of letters. Although three of the eight letters are missing, he knows the answer: The solution is almost certainly “MADHOUSE”.
We can apply this principle to the results in the Söring case by considering two blood samples. The first is blood sample 35K. It was found on a surface in the kitchen (therefore K for kitchen). In blood group typing, six of nine subtypes were determined. They all agreed with Derek Haysom’s blood sample from his autopsy (blood sample CME-3) was taken (WB 16):
Therefore, we can assume with a high degree of certainty that the blood in sample 35K came from Derek Haysom. Blood sample 2FE (Front Entrance) was found on the door frame of the front door. The typing revealed type O, the same blood group as Jens Söring. This sample has DNA that excludes Söring. This is one of the two samples that Söring and his supporters claim was left by “Unknown Type O male”.
Now let’s have a look at the DNA analysis of the two samples (the original document can be downloaded here). In the graphic “BG” stands for blood group. Amel is a locus that determines the sex; here we see that both traces come from a male (with Y chromosome):
The DNA protocol used by the private DNA company determines alleles at 16 loci — the 13 loci used for an official database “fingerprint”, plus three more. As we can see, both samples yielded only incomplete results.
Yet if you compare the DNA results of the two traces, something else immediately catches your eye. For six loci – D8S1179; D21S11; D3S1358; D7S820; D13S317; and D5S818 – the results are identical. There is only one possible partial collision, at TH01, possibly a consequence of contamination. But six loci are identical in every respect. Therefore, the DNA laboratory concluded that both 2FE and 35K were most likely from a single male donor – Derek Haysom. The independent experts agree with the laboratory; as Dan Krane has noticed “2FE and 6FE had the same DNA profile as Derek Haysom.”
Krane reached this conclusion because the probability that an unknown man had the same alleles as Derek Haysom at these 6 loci is negligible. How negligible? For this we have to find out the frequencies of the alleles and multiply them as shown above. There are various databases on the Internet on the frequency of these alleles. Take one of the most prestigious, STRBase, published by the National Institute of Standards. For comparison purposes we will use the general data collection for all ethnic groups; after all, we do not know whether the “unknown perpetrators” are white, black, or Asian.
According to this database, the frequency of the alleles at locus D8S1179 are therefore: 13 = 0.2683; 14 = 0.2336; at D21S11: 30.0 = 0.2476; 27 = 0.0386; at D7S820: 12 = 0.2346; at D13S317: 13 = 0.1163; 12 = 0.3050; at D5S818: 12 = 0.3533. In order to determine the overall probability, we multiply the individual frequencies. The result: The probability of finding exactly this sub-profile among the (male) US population is 1 in 567,828. In 1985 there were 119 million men in the USA. Of these, purely statistically speaking, about 838 men would have this DNA sub-profile. This evaluation is of course only an extremely rough initial approximation — but it is also an extremely conservative approximation. Also, this example is only one of the samples that Söring’s supporters assign to the “unknown male perpetrators”. Söring’s supporters point to four such samples, two each with type O blood and two with type AB. All four samples also have a DNA profile that is consistent with that of Derek Haysom, with no significant collisions. If these partial matches are also taken into account, several partial profiles are correlated, and the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium is applied, the probability is several orders of magnitude lower. To take up the “Wheel of Fortune” example again: Assume four different starting points, to match the four different blood samples. In one play, the game board says “M_DHO___”, in another, “_AHD___E”, in another, “MADH____”, and in another “_AD_O_SE”. What is the probability that the word sought in all four cases is not MADHOUSE? Infinitesimal – and just as low as the probability that the DNA in the four samples came from the alleged unknown males, and not exclusively from Derek Haysom.
After this lengthy digression — which is necessary only because Söring and his supporters always misrepresent the “DNA evidence” — we can sum up. Söring’s supporters claim that four traces were left at the scene by two unknown male perpetrators. If this is true, both perpetrators had to have belonged — by sheer coincidence — to the group of only about 838 men in the United States who have exactly these allele combinations. But there is an alternative that is literally millions of times more likely: All male DNA traces that could still be evaluated in 2009 originated from Derek Haysom. However, some of these were found in crime scene samples which also contained blood with the type of Nancy Haysom and Jens Söring. The independent experts all came to the same conclusion, and they are right. The DNA results are irrelevant.
2. Was I Right? The Krane Letter
Before I published the FAZ article, I emailed Prof. Krane and asked him to correct me if my analysis was in error. He never got back to me, presumably because he wasn’t interested in being pulled deeper into the brouhaha surrounding the Söring case, and/or because he found little to dispute in my analysis. Krane has never provided a detailed explanation for his conclusions in public, but he did elaborate on his reasoning in letter from September 2017. Here is the letter, slightly edited:
I am a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. I have recently completed a one-year term as a fellow of the American Council on Education at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana. I have a B.S. degree with a double major in Biology and Chemistry from John Carroll University (Cleveland, Ohio), and a Ph.D. from the Biochemistry program of the Cell and Molecular Biology Department of the Pennsylvania State University (State College, Pennsylvania). I have also done postdoctoral research using the tools of molecular biology to answer questions in the fields of population genetics and molecular evolution in the Genetics Department of the Washington University Medical School (St. Louis, Missouri) and in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology of Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts). I have published more than 50 scholarly papers in a variety of topics including population genetic studies of the genetic diversity of human populations at DNA typing loci, of organisms exposed to environmental stressors, and the use of DNA typing in forensic science. I am also the lead author of a widely used undergraduate textbook, Fundamental Concepts of Bioinformatics. I was a founding member of and two-time gubernatorial appointee to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Scientific Advisory Committee, a 12-member panel established by statute to provide oversight and guidance to the Virginia Department of Forensic Science (the crime laboratory for the Commonwealth of Virginia). I have testified in approximately 110 criminal proceedings that have involved forensic DNA typing (in 23 different state and district courts, several courts martial, and in three different Federal courts within the United States, a Coronial Inquest in the State of Victoria in Australia, in Belfast Crown Court in Northern Ireland, the Black Friar’s Court and the Central Criminal Court of London and in Oxford Crown Court in England).
I have been asked to assess the forensic testing that was done in association with the murders of Elizabeth and Derek Haysom including serological testing done by Mary Jane Burton in 1985 and DNA testing performed by Bode Technology (“Bode”) and the Virginia Department of Forensic Science in 2009. I have also been asked to review recent statements made by Dr. Moses Schanfield in support of Jens Soering’s petition for an absolute pardon.
The below table of alleles lists the alleles (with their accompanying “optical densities,” ODs; a measure of the strength of signal associated with detected alleles) for three individuals of interest (Derek Haysom, Jens Soering, and Elizabeth Haysom) and two important evidence samples (2FE and 6FE; both taken from the front entrance to the home where the murders occurred). I agree with the Virginia Department of Forensic Sciences’ conclusion that, while the possibility of allelic drop-out significantly complicates the interpretation of these test results, Jens Soering can be reasonably excluded as a possible contributor to these two samples. I see no indication from the DNA test results that Jens Soering was a contributor to
any of the crime scene samples. In contrast, Derek Haysom cannot be eliminated as the source of at least some of the biological material associated with the 2FE and 6FE samples. He and the 2FE sample share a combination of alleles that would be expected to be found in fewer than one in 100,000,000 pairs of randomly chosen, unrelated individuals from the North American population. Less information was obtained from the 6FE sample but he shares a combination of alleles that would be expected to be found in fewer than one in 1,000,000 pairs of unrelated individuals
from the North American population. DNA profiling yielded significantly less information for all of the other tested evidence samples but the alleles that were detected were consistently among those that could have been contributed by Derek Haysom.
It is worth noting that the OD values associated with the X and the Y alleles at the amelogenin locus for the 2FE sample are not necessarily what would be expected to be found in a sample to which only a male or males had contributed. The larger OD values for the X allele would be most simply explained by the sample containing some DNA from one or more females in addition to the male(s) that gave rise to the Y allele which was also detected.
I understand that serologist Mary Jane Burton reported that samples 2FE and 6FE were found to be blood type O and that Derek Haysom was blood type A. Two explanations could reconcile the apparent inconsistency between the blood typing and DNA profiling results for these samples: 1) the typing results are incorrect, and/or 2) the blood type results are giving information about a different contributor to the samples than the DNA test results. Regarding the first possible explanation, the DNA test results for the 2FE and 6FE samples are incomplete but still sufficient to be highly discriminating. The data that underlies the DNA testing is still available for inspection and independent interpretation. In contrast, it is not possible to independently inspect or interpret the work done by Mary Jane Burton. Regarding the second possible explanation, the cell types that gave rise to the DNA profile information do not necessarily have to be the same as those that underlie the blood type analyses. For instance, a mixture of saliva and blood could give rise to a DNA profile that corresponds to the source of the saliva and the blood could give rise to a blood type from a different individual. This is would be especially true if there was an unequal mixture of the two (e.g. 10 times more saliva than blood – saliva is an excellent source of an individual’s DNA but not a particularly good means of determining their blood type). It would be incorrect to assume that the absence of an affirmative indication of a mixture of two or more individual’s biological materials was proof that 2FE and 6FE (or any of the other tested evidence samples) were single source samples.
Very little DNA profile information was obtained from samples 23K#1 and 7FE#1. The very small number of alleles that were detected in these samples could not have been contributed by Jens Soering but are among those that Derek Haysom could have contributed. Serologist Mary Jane Burton reported that the 23K#1 and 7FE#1 samples were blood type AB and, therefore, inconsistent with Derek Haysom (who
was blood type A). As with the 2FE and the 6FE samples, there are two explanations (error and/or testing of different materials in the same samples) that could account for the inconsistency in the blood typing results and the DNA profiling results if Derek Haysom was indeed the source of the DNA for one or both of the 23K#1 and 7FE#1 samples (but, the limited nature of the results and the problems introduced by the strong expectation that drop-out has occurred, make it necessary to consider that many other individuals could also have been the source of the detected alleles). It is worth bearing in mind that the presence of a DNA profile says nothing about the time frame or the circumstances under which DNA came to be associated with an article of evidence. The test results obtained for the 2FE, 6FE, 23K#1 and 7FE#1 samples would look the same if the detected DNA came to rest weeks prior to or at the same time the murders occurred. Similarly, current DNA tests are not able to discern between DNA derived from blood, saliva or skin cells. Current DNA tests are also unable to distinguish between material that was directly deposited onto an item and that which was transferred by secondary or tertiary contact.
So Krane came to a broadly similar conclusion: Even the partial profiles excluded all but 1 in a million people, or even 1 in 100 million (at these levels the precise number’s hardly relevant) from having contributed the blood samples attributed to the “two unknown males”.
3. Söring’s Fruitless German Expert Hunt
But there’s even more. In early 2020, as Söring was preparing his German media offensive, he realized it would be better if he could get German-speaking experts to endorse the DNA-related conclusions of McClintock, Schanfield, and others. A talking head actually speaking German is going to be more impressive on a German TV program than one who has to be dubbed or subtitled from English. So Team Söring went searching for German DNA experts to endorse the theory of the “two unknown men”.
However, no German experts have come forward to endorse this theory. The reason? Every German expert Team Söring has approached has come to generally the same conclusion as Wright, Krane, DesPortes, and yours truly — there is no evidence that unknown males bled at the crime scene. One of the experts even wrote back to Team Söring after having read my FAZ article and described it as “basically” correct. It would be wrong to say Krane and this German expert endorse my analysis, but it is accurate to say they reached the same general conclusions for the same reasons: the overwhelming likelihood is that the small number of crime scene samples which yielded any male DNA all contained DNA from Derek Haysom, and the odds against any of the DNA having come from unknown sources are literally astronomical. All of the independent experts, thus, agree.
Oh, and the results of the DNA test performed by J. Thomas McClintock for the Small Town Big Crime podcast? Shifflett’s DNA was not a match for the male DNA found at the crime scene. No surprise there, at least for us insiders.
17 thoughts on “The Experts Agree: No Unknown DNA at the Söring Crime Scene”
Why does Prof. Krane’s 2FE sample have 19 alleles, while the one from the 2009 analysis only has 15? And for the 6FE sample: why 13 and not as noted in the 2009 report 9 alleles?
Where did Prof. Krane get the “optical densities” from?
Did Prof. Krane use a different analysis report? If so could you provide a link?
Why did Prof. Krane write this letter? Who did he send it to?
All very interesting questions! All I can say is that I have every reason to believe the letter is genuine. Krane is a trained biologist and has plenty of insights and techniques which go far beyond my pay grade.
But from a legal/forensic standpoint, only his conclusion matters: there is no reason to suspect that unknown males bled at the crime scene.
You don’t know where Prof. Krane got his data from and because he doesn’t know that you published this letter you can’t ask him? Is this what you are trying to say?
There must have been a reason why the lab didn’t include these alleles in the 2009 report. The optical densities seem high enough, so this probably wasn’t the problem. Where there too many alleles to choose from?
Maybe we should look at the raw data before we make any more assumptions.
While Prof. Krane seems to support your theory that the DNA source of sample 2FE is likely Derek Haysom’s, he writes about the two male ‘Blood AB’-samples 23K#1 and 7FE#1:
“(but, the limited nature of the results and the problems introduced by the strong expectation that drop-out has occurred, make it necessary to consider that many other individuals could also have been the source of the detected alleles)”
In part Prof. Krane seems to agree with Soering’s idea, the DNA might hint to an unknown male.
One more thing:
Since Derek Haysom’s DNA seems quite crucial: Did you ask someone at the prosecutors office what efforts they made to find out Derek Haysom’s DNA? They have unlimited resources and one might think this information should be possible to obtain.
I find it quite odd that someone independent like you tries to make the job of the prosecutors.
As I’ve repeatedly said on this blog, I try to be as open as possible, except as necessary to protect sources who don’t wish to be identified. This is standard practice in journalism.
As I noted in the FAZ article — did you read it? — Derek Haysom’s blood sample was destroyed, so there is no full DNA profile from him. However, a partial DNA profile can be subsumed from the small handful of male blood samples left at the crime scene which match each other.
Krane’s report does not exclude possibility that some of the male DNA could have come from unknown sources, but the possibility is remote. But what the expert reports make clear is saying “DNA proves two unknown males bled at the crime scene” is untrue. This is nothing more than a remote theoretical possibility. The fact that all the testable DNA came from Derek Haysom is statistically much, much more likely. We’ll never know for 100% sure, but that’s not the standard anywhere in the legal system, or in real life.
I’m not trying to do the prosecutors’ job. They already did their job, successfully, 30 years ago. They obtained a unanimous jury verdict beyond a reasonable doubt, which was upheld unanimously by four separate appeals courts. They convicted the right two people based on “overwhelming” evidence (in the words of the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals), and those people served their time. Unbiased observers who carefully examine all the evidence in the case, including the entire trial of Jens Söring virtually always comes to the same conclusion.
All I am doing is pointing out that Söring’s continuing claims of innocence are demonstrably false. If he stops making false claims, I’ll stop correcting the historical record.
I know that Derek Haysoms blood samples were destroyed. And you surly know that others like former Va. chief medical examiner Dr. Marcella Fierro made suggestions to obtain Derek Haysom’s DNA without the need of blood:
“Fierro says the DNA profile of Derek Haysom, stabbed to death in 1985 along with his wife, Nancy, should be available in biological material, clothing or even the string used for a toe tag – some or all of which may have been kept by the medical examiner following his autopsy. […] Hair collected from Derek Haysom would not be of value for comparison to the 2009 results in Soering’s case unless a root was included. However, any tissue samples that might remain or even the string used to attach a toe tag could reveal Haysom’s DNA.”
Did anyone follow up on this? You want to proof that the DNA of one sample is non blood-DNA with analysing another sample claiming that this time the DNA ist from the blood. Maybe it’s the other way around, maybe non of the found DNA is blood-DNA. I don’t think this will work without knowing Derek Haysom’s DNA.
If the Krane Letter and the analysis is genuine – you believe it is but you don’t know for sure – then there is additional DNA data available unknown to the public. It would be interesting to see what this analysis says about the other samples.
Whoever is feeding you with information, he or she is not giving you the full picture.
What’s the point of searching for possible 35-year-old DNA traces in a case which has been solved?
Krane trat 2018 als DNA Experte in der Episode der US-Show ABC 20/20 auf, die sich mit dem Fall der Haysom Morde beschäftigte. (Dort sprachen übrigens auch Beever und Wright vor der Kamera.) Was Krane vor laufender Kamera zur DNA sagt, stimmt mit dem Inhalt dieses Posts überein. Das weiss eigentlch jeder, der sich halbwegs mit dem Fall auskennt. Kann man sich anschauen und anhören. Wer die Authentizität der von Krane schriftlich verfassten Analyse anzweifelt, kann ja einfach mal beim ABC 20/20 Team nachfragen, ob das Dokument echt ist. Denen hat er das doch bestimmt vorgelegt, sonst hätten sie ihn wohl kaum als Experten in der Show auftreten lassen. Die haben ja auch einen Ruf zu verlieren.
But Dan Krane, a DNA expert whom “20/20” consulted, questions whether the results are really that conclusive. Krane says it’s possible the DNA that Soering’s supporters say is supposedly from two other men is actually from Derek Haysom.
“I think we can also say that there’s no affirmative indication of anybody other than the victims being present at the crime scene as well,” Krane told “20/20.”
I just wanted to know why Mr Hammel states, that the 2FE sample has no alleles at the FGA and TPOX loci while Prof Krane shows that these loci have alleles 21, 8 and 11.
They therefore come to different conclusions: “1 in 567,828” vs. “fewer than one in 100,000,000”.
Mr Hammel introduces Prof Krane as an expert who supports his findings. But in part he contradicts him. Obviously both work with a different set of data. How can this be?
That’s why I asked.
Mr Hammel replied that he has “every reason to believe the letter is genuine”. This is an odd answer since no one doubted the genuinity. Then Mr Hammel writes he tries “to protect sources who don’t wish to be identified.” This is probably the reason why Mr Hammel edited out the recipient and ordering party of the letter.
Now we know that the source who gave this letter to Mr Hammel is not Prof Krane. And that it’s probably not a Letter to ABC or 20/20. That’s all pretty weird and raises the question: who actually paid for this analysis?
Seems like Prof. Krane looked at the original electropherograms. I didn’t even know they still exist. Why isn’t this public knowledge? Who knows about this? Does Jens Soering and his lawyers know? And what about Elizabeth Haysom and her legal team? Do they have the original raw data? Could this data reveal other things as well?
That would be a pretty good story – much better than this weepy “Mr Soering lied and still lies and I will continue writing that he lies until he stops lying …”
At least for someone who is interested in this case and has an open mind.
Obviously Krane prepared the letter for “20/20”, the show which hired him to review the evidence independently. I neither know nor care where he got the additional information reflected in the letter. That would be pretty interesting from a biological/genetic standpoint, but not from a legal standpoint. From a *legal* standpoint, the only relevant question is: Does the DNA evidence provide a *persuasive* reason to discount all of the *other* evidence pointing to Söring’s guilt? My answer is no, and so is Krane’s, and so is DesPortes’, and so is Wright’s. And the reason is that it is literally millions of times more likely that the few remaining scraps of testable male DNA found at the crime scene belonged to Derek Haysom than that they belonged to two unknown males.
This is why it’s quite important whether Söring is lying. The only reason to re-open this closed case would be if Söring could make a credible, persuasive case that he was wrongly convicted. If he cannot, then there is no reason to look further, except for historical curiosity. And what do we do to tell if someone’s story is credible and persuasive? You ask questions like “Has this person changed their story?” and “Has this person been found to have lied under oath?”. The answer to both questions, when it comes to Jens Söring, is “Yes, multiple times.”
If a proven liar wants you to invest time and resources trying to prove a strange story which he keeps changing, you shouldn’t. It’s as simple as that.
“I have every reason to believe the letter is genuine.”
“Obviously Krane prepared the letter for “20/20”, the show which hired him to review the evidence independently.”
So you don’t have the original letter. Just a version edited by your source. You have to make assumption not only about the genuinity but about the purpose of the letter too.
Can you rule out that this letter was written for and send to the parole board to prevent Jens Soerings release?
I’m asking because one of your probable sources claims to have access to some of these documents:
“In the not too distant future there will be a long-overdue, detailed analysis of the Virginia Parole Board’s decision in November 2019. That decision turns out to have been every bit as corrupt as first suspected, and evidence keeps rolling in.”
My posts about Jens Söring are about whether Söring’s innocence story is credible. Söring’s supporters are always eager to deflect attention from this question, the only important question, because their arguments are unconvincing. Thus, they try to derail conversations about whether Söring’s innocence story is credible — the only important question — into pointless cloak-and-dagger speculations about who said what to whom when, and who’s working “behind the scenes” to do this or that.
The letter speaks for itself. If you have specific, concrete reasons to doubt its conclusions, then feel free to state them. Because that would be relevant to the only important question: whether Söring’s innocence story is credible.
I bet you’re beginning to notice a theme here!
I stated my concerns (data different from anyone elses). You said you don’t care.
I just wanted to figure out if you and your informations are credible. But you don’t even bother to fact check.
Don’t worry, I will find reliable information somewhere else.
Man kann mit einfacher Software genau sehen, wie und wenn ja, wann ein Dokument bearbeitet wurde. Hier öffentlich zu behaupten „a version edited by your source“ ist ganz schön frech, wenn man selbst weder das Dokument vorliegen hat, noch weiss, wer Herrn Hammel das Dokument zur Verfügung gestellt hat. Du unterstellt ja hier geradezu böswillige Absichten.
Würdest du ebenfalls unterstellen oder vermuten, Dokumente seien editiert, wenn sie bei Söring auf der website veröffentlicht werden oder wird dem Herrn einfach so geglaubt? Man kann nicht mit zweierlei Maß messen.
Hier gehts auch dabei lediglich darum, dass man den Fall mal objektiv betrachtet und die Frage der Unschuld anhand von Fakten hinterfragt.
Die Journalisten von ABC 20/20, die Krane laut ihrem eigenen Artikel auf der ABC website beauftragt hatten, können die Frage der Echtheit sicherlich einfach beantworten, und auch, ob das Dokument editiert wurde. Da sollte man mal einfach nachfragen, bevor hier solche Unterstellungen gepostet werden.
Der Blogposter von Soeringguiltyascharged hat in seinem Post übrigens auf mehrere Quellen in den Behörden direkt vor Ort in Virginia hingewiesen, denen aufgrund von Sörings Anträgen zig Dokumente vorliegen. Und Mitarbeiter in Verlagen und anderen Firmen, die mit drin hängen. Menschen bei Behörden und Instituten, die den Fall bearbeitet und in dem Fall ermittelt haben. Will man denen allen vorwerfen, dass da irgendwas editiert wird? Nur weil es vielleicht nicht zur Unschuldsbehauptung passt? Was hätten die Menschen denn davon? Es geht doch lediglich ganz unemotional um die Frage der Wahrheit und der Fakten.
Well I did ask Mr Hammel: “Why did Prof. Krane write this letter? Who did he send it to?”
He didn’t answer: “This is the letter Prof Krane wrote to ABC’s 20/20.”.
He hinted that it might be the case: “I have every reason to believe the letter is genuine.” and “Obviously Krane prepared the letter for “20/20”, the show which hired him to review the evidence independently.”
So I assumed, he doesn’t know for sure.
That the letter is edited is not my assumption. It says so in the blogpost: “Here is the letter, slightly edited:”
But I can ask again: Mr Hammel, do you have the original unedited letter and who is this letter addressed to?
Alright, I admit it. I received the letter from a source I can only identify as “Raoul”, who identified himself as working for a “government agency” which he was not permitted to name. He warned me that if I revealed his true identity, the consequences could be “horrifying”. He said he was forced to act out of conscience. Krane’s opinion on the DNA evidence in the Söring case had caused “major repercussions” in the highest echelons of the US and German government, and the “agency” he worked for had been tasked with creating an elaborate false-flag scenario in which Krane’s letter would introduce confusion into the issue by creating minute discrepancies with other publicly-available information, raising the possibility of a secret “second opinion”.
I don’t understand it all, but that’s the nature of super-secret triple-bankshot conspiracies. Meanwhile, I finally received an email from Dan Krane in which the letters beginning each sentence spell the phrase “URGENT HELP KIDNAP”. I’ll keep you informed of future developments.
This is like Whac-A-Mole.
Even if there were two other males at the crime scene, why bring it up now other than to muddy the waters? Team Soring know they will never be found because they don’t exist. If they did exist Team Soring would not be going down this cul de sac because they know the first thing they would say is that Soring was there as well.
It’s pointless, but Haysom familial DNA could probably be used as a cross reference.
Equally the other drifter’s DNA is on file in Virginia, but the authorities have not allowed for it to be compared, presumably because of the overwhelming evidence of Soring’s guilt.
Maybe they should?
But then another mole will pop up.
Thanks. To leavee alone Raoul and Dan, best seems to stop reading this Blog. Have fun!