I’ve have a bit of work recently, which explains the light posting. But the Small Town, Big Crime podcast by Virginia reporters Rachel Ryan, Jaclyn Piermarini, and Courteney Stuart just dropped three new episodes, and there’s some exciting stuff in them. They episodes are called “Elizabeth”, “The Love Story”, and “The Other Suspects”. There’s even a brief cameo by yours truly at the end of “The Love Story”.
Much of “Elizabeth” and “The Love Story” cover familiar ground to fans of the case — although there is some new information here, too, especially from a psychiatrist who recently interviewed Elizabeth as part of her parole bid, and believes she’s fully rehabilitated and presents no danger. The podcasters also interviewed Phyllis Workman, who has known Elizabeth for decades and is one of her steadfast supporters. Workman gives us some insight into how Elizabeth coped with imprisonment and put her time there to good use, and now just wants to return to a normal life in privacy.
I’ve always been a more interested in the forensic aspects of the case, so for me, “The Other Suspects” was the key episode. The podcasters already dealt one blow to Söring’s defense by using DNA to rule out out one of the Deadly Drifters, William Shifflett. But what about the other drifter, Robert Albright? The hosts managed to get in touch with him (he has had a traumatic brain injury and is still in prison, so he was a bit hard to get in touch with). Like so many other people, Albright said he was tired of having his name constantly smeared by Söring and his supporters. There was no way to get a DNA sample from him, but Albright requested his own DNA profile from the State of Virginia, which keeps DNA profiles of convicted felons.
The hosts gave the profile to J. Thomas McClintock, the Liberty University scientist who had earlier given affidavits supporting Söring.
No match. Both drifters cleared.
The hosts then turned to poor old Jim Farmer, the old college buddy of Elizabeth’s who Team Söring has been trying to place at the crime scene for decades, based on no evidence. Well, there is one piece of evidence — the Haysoms were murdered on Farmer’s birthday, which Söring, but nobody else, believes is revealing. In an interview, Chip Harding notes that he had already been to see Farmer’s parents (Farmer himself died in 2014), and they both spontaneously confirmed he had Type A- blood, which rules him out. But the podcast hosts got hold of DNA from a “close relative” of Farmer to make sure, and gave that to McClintock as well.
No match. Jim Farmer cleared.
This clears all three of the people mooted with any degree of seriousness as “alternate suspects”. There’s another suspect called “Robin” which the podcast hosts dismiss as irrelevant. The hosts turn briefly to Tony Buchanan, the gun-toting garage owner with the odd story about an abandoned car, but they don’t seem very convinced, for obvious reasons.
None of this comes as a surprise to followers of the case; there was never any plausible evidence of these people being involved in the crime. There was no more chance of DNA implicating them in the murders than implicating me or you (unless you’re Jens Söring). The drifters and Jim Farmer were simply red herrings and rabbit trails created by talented and conscientious defense lawyers. It’s the job of defense lawyers, after all, to push any possible alternate theory, no matter how abstruse. They’re to be congratulated, but time, truth, and conscientious reporting has now demolished their efforts completely.
At the end of “The Other Suspects” we get a preview of things to come. The hosts contacted the current prosecutor in Bedford County, who said they weren’t stonewalling about testing other pieces of evidence in the case (as Chip Harding claims), but that testing them would be pointless, since they have been handled by hundreds of people since the crime. The hosts also talk to Dan Krane, who (chuckling) explains the point Terry Wright and I have made at great lengths: Serological blood testing and DNA evidence are very different procedures, and conflating results from both of these tests is unscientific. Krane comes to the simple, but damning, conclusion: “I do not see compelling evidence of a wrongful conviction.”
The next episodes will feature a crime-scene witness, and then some interviews with people who are trying to prove Söring’s guilt “once and for all”, probably including me. If you’re finding this podcast as interesting as I am, please go support the makers on Patreon.