Criminal Law, DNA, Evidence, Murder, Police and Prosecutors, Soering, True Crime

3 New Episodes of the Söring Podcast, All Alternate Suspects Eliminated

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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.

The result?

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.

The result?

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.

14 thoughts on “3 New Episodes of the Söring Podcast, All Alternate Suspects Eliminated”

  1. By coincidence, it was just yesterday I visited Jens Soering’s own website. And, speaking of DNA and alternative suspects, I was amused by the duplicitous headline there. Which insinuates Soering was released from prison because “new DNA findings” proved he was innocent. What a crock of beans.

    p.s. Hardly worth mentioning, but a small typo in first line of the above blog post.

  2. Sehr geehrter Herr Hammel,

    Ich habe mich vor einiger Zeit ausgiebigst mit dem Bericht von Terry Wright befasst, weil ich durch den Link in einem Ihrer Artikel der FAZ darauf gestoßen bin.
    Früher hatte auch ich einmal Zweifel daran, ob Jens Söring diese Tat wirklich begangen hat, da ich einige seiner Lügen geglaubt habe. Aber durch die ganzen Informationen, die ich durch den Bericht und meine anderweitige ausführliche Recherche erhalten habe, konnte ich schließlich fast ohne Zweifel selbst feststellen, dass Jens Söring schuldig ist.
    Mir ist allerdings kürzlich etwas aufgefallen. Es betrifft zwar nicht das Thema dieses Artikels, aber das einiger anderer, es geht um die Haft und die Befragungen in England: Nämlich ist auf dem Dokument, mit dem Söring damals einen Anwalt abgelehnt hat, hinter der Option „I want a solicitor as soon as practicable“ ein Haken gesetzt worden, als hätte er diese Option ausgewählt, aber sie ist dann später durchgestrichen worden. Das hat mich etwas gewundert, da Söring ja behauptet, er sei gezwungen worden, diesen anwaltlichen Beistand abzulehnen. Wenn man das so sieht, könnte man meinen, er hat zunächst ausgewählt, einen Anwalt sehen zu wollen und dann nachher, möglicherweise durch ausgeübten Druck von anderen, die Option durchgestrichen. Obwohl ich definitiv nicht glaube, dass Söring in irgendeiner Weise gezwungen wurde oder Ähnliches, fand ich diese Erkenntnis doch sehr verwundernd.

    Mit freundlichen Grüßen,
    Lara

    1. Mein Eindruck beim Durchlesen der Verhörprotokolle ist eher, daß sich die englischen Ermittler so verhalten, wie man sich britische Gentleman vorstellt: Absolut korrekt und jederzeit fair.
      Ich denke, sie waren sehr darauf bedacht, daß das Verhör korrekt abläuft, um es später überhaupt vor Gericht verwerten zu können.
      Selbst Söring hat nie behauptet, daß der Haken auf irgendeinen Druck hin durchgestrichen worden wäre.
      Ich frage mich allerdings schon lange: Warum eigentlich wollte Söring keinen Anwalt dabei haben ? Als es noch um die Scheckbetrugssache ging, ließ er sich ja anwaltlich vertreten.
      Die einzige (nicht ganz befriedigende) Erklärung, die ich dafür habe: Er dachte, er sei durch eindeutige, physische Beweise vom Tatort bereits überführt (ein tragischer Irrtum) und wollte durch das Geständnis die Tat als Totschlag und nicht als Mord darstellen.

      1. Eben, ich denke auch absolut nicht, dass ihm dort jemand gedroht hat oder Ähnliches, das ist schon sehr abwegig und nichts, was man von Ermittlern mit langjähriger Erfahrung erwartet.
        Wegen der Ablehnung des anwaltlichen Beistandes: Das habe ich mich natürlich auch schon oft gefragt, es ist mir allerdings ebenso nicht wirklich erklärbar. Söring dachte ja damals, dass er sowieso überführt sei: Er sagte den Ermittlern, es gäbe eine Überwachungsaufnahme des Hotels, auf der er im Aufzug zu sehen ist, diese Aufnahme hätte sein Geständnis verifiziert, und eine weitere Sache ist die: Auf einem Tatortfoto, dass die Spüle in der Küche zeigt, ist eine Luminolreaktion in dieser Küchenspüle zu sehen, ebenso gleich daneben auf einer Art Bürste, die offenbar zum Saubermachen genutzt wurde. Anders als beispielsweise das Besteck oder die Waffe wurde diese Bürste allerdings nicht mitgenommen, obwohl Söring sie, um sie zu benutzen, natürlich angefasst haben muss. Das könnte womöglich der Grund für seine Sorge mit den Fingerabdrücken gewesen sein.
        Ein Anwalt hätte ihm aller Wahrscheinlichkeit nach angeraten, solche Details nicht preiszugeben, und sie hätten nicht gegen ihn verwendet werden können.
        Man wird wohl nicht genau wissen können, was Söring zu dieser Entscheidung veranlasst hat.

  3. I assume that the forensic psychologist who gives an account on the Small Town Big Crime podcast of an interview with Elizabeth Haysom is Dr Jeffrey C. Fracher, who has been in past a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia. Dr Fracher, if this is he, discusses the ‘trauma and neglect’ that scarred and distressed Elizabeth’s early life. He notes that in 1973 when she was nine years old, during a time of labor unrest at the steel company her father managed that she had been attacked by a group of boys and badly beaten. Dr. Fracher states that she had a broken jaw, broken teeth and had to have dental surgery. I first heard this claim in court at Bedford, Virginia on October 6, 1987 at her sentencing hearing. She said then (page 79-83): “…they just grabbed me and took my head and smashed it against the corner of a wall at the school, and breaking my front teeth and damaging my jaw. And I spent the next, I believe it was five or six years having corrective surgery and orthodontistry (?) done.”

    I went to Nova Scotia in 1989 and interviewed a lot of people in person. Later I telephoned from Virginia to others whose names I had been given. I had conversations with one of Elizabeth’s teachers, She was not happy with my questions. She said nothing like that had ever happened. Later on, the headmistresss of the school very graciously contacted me. She very firmly told me that the school administration knew nothing about any such beating of one of their children on the school grounds or anywhere else.

    If something like that had happened it would have been a police matter and an insurance matter for the school. It would also have been known at the steel mill or its administration. It would have been a major incident, in fact, on Cape Breton. Noone I talked to at the steel plant , and I talked to more than twelve persons, made any mention of any such incident. Noone in the family knew anything about this.

    I don’t think Dr. Fracher realized what an interesting case he was dealing with.

    .

  4. The psychologist who examined Elizabeth Haysom and recommended that she be paroled in 2014 –this may be Dr. Jeffrey C. Fracher– states sfor , c

  5. The psychologist who examined Elizabeth Haysom and who recommended that she be paroled in 2014–who may be Dr. Jeffrey C. Fracher– tells ‘ Small Town, Big Crime ‘ that he disagrees with the diagnosis of a Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) made by psychiatrists and testified to at her sentencing hearing in 1987. He gives a quick sketch why. He believes that EH was in a “highly emotionally labile” state caused by the crisis which she found herself in being arrested, thrown in jail, still suffering from dissipations and “drug addled”, destabilized from having been “on the run” and shocked by having to face trial for murder. Psychiatrists interviewing her and testing her “on that basis” came to a wrong conclusion that she had a BPD, he concluded.

    This would be an important conclusion for him to make when he was recommending parole, though he had other reasons for recommending parole, of course. The question I would raise here is this: is a BPD curable? Could the designation BPD simply be another way of saying, or enfold within in it, the concept of “psychopath.” It would be better for parole, you might think, if she did not have now, or indeed never had, the kind of psychopathy implied by such a serious determination of mental illness as BPD.

    The impression I got from Dr. Fracher’s quick sketch was that he thinks that the Borderline Personality Disorder was made by psychiatrists, presumably in England, shortly after Elizabeth’s arrest. And it is true that both were given psychiatric exams by Dr.Henrietta Bullard and by Dr. John R. Hamilton during the summer of 1986. Dr. Bullard states that she examined EH on July 10, July 16 and December 2. Dr. Hamilton states that he examined EH on July 18 and September 22. Dr. Bullard expressed reservations about the information she had been given. She said “I hope that further interviews will help to establish the extent of Miss Haysom’s mental abnormality, and in particular, how she managed to persuade Soering that neither of them would be free until her parents were dead.” Dr. Hamilton suspected hysterical personality disorder.

    The evaluation of Borderline Personality Disorder was not made until EH was returned to Virginia. This was a year later, when she would not have been suffering the trauma of arrest. And she was never “drug- addled.” Jens Soering would not have tolerated any drugs during the time they travelled outside the US in flight, they thought, from Interpol, with bench warrants out against them.

    The testing took place at the University of Virginia Hospital Forensic Psychiatric Clinic. She was taken to Charlottesville from Bedford for the testing. The first one seems to have been the psychosocial Interview by Janet Warren, DSW, on June 30, 1987. There was another psychosocial on July 21; a psychiatric interview with C. Robert Showalter also on July 21; another psychiatric interview with Dr. Showalter and Lisa Hovermale, M.D., on August 6, 1987. There were interviews with a number of family members by telephone. This testing seems to me to have been quite thorough.

    Nevertheless, Elizabeth also tried to get away with deception on the Virginia psychiatric team. It didn’t work. The opinion of Judge William Sweeney at Bedford was that part of the psychiatric testimony given by Dr. Showalter was wrong. Now this is a separate matter from the accuracy of the Borderline Personality Disorder designation and I don’t intend to get into it. However, the sentence that Judge Sweeney gave –two consecutive 45 year sentences, which he made plain in later press interviews he wanted her to serve most of, indicated that he did not think she should be in society for a long time until she went through the great stabilizing changes that age would bring. And I assume that he intended that this separation from society would be better for her, and would protect her family from the potential chaotic struggle that might occur if she were to become unstable. I know that the judge believed that there was something profoundly wrong and he never stated that he disagreed with the BPD evaluation.

    Even if EH had had a BPD it is unlikely that she would reoffend, I am guessing. Caution against dangerous impulses can be learned. I think that the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder was accurate. And I find it very sad and alarming that EH in 2014 was telling the same old bizarre fictions of having been terribly abused–which have been again and again discredited, to begin with by cross examination and family testimony in court in 1987— to yet another psychologist. And I am surprised that this new psychologist simply does not do any fact . The account that she told him of her so-called’ history’ is batshit crazy and he swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

  6. A bit of perspective rather than a blind acceptance that EH is fully rehabilitated, at last.

    I am sure neither will commit another murder or even jay walk. They would have to be completely mad.

    Leopards don’t change their spots and the idea that people who have spent their entire adult lives in a max security prison, with the most dangerous criminals for 33 years,have learnt how to tell the truth, not manipulate or deceive is ridiculous. You learn from your peers as you mature through life and we know for a fact that Soering has honed his skills and became a master loan shark.

    EH I think admitted to Gardner in 1985 that she had taken heroin. She apparently was on LSD or similar in Berlin and may have been sexually assaulted in that dodgy squat before turning up in rags at the consulate. Not a glamorous foreign adventure at all.
    She had all her natural front teeth in 1985.

    At sentencing, she admitted to drug taking in prison but said she’d been clean since January 1987. A narcotics anonomous counsellor gave evidence to that effect as well

    Her story about maternal sexual abuse has flip flopped over the years. Latest version in 2015 is Yes

    She was a bl%%dy good actress in 1985, according to Gardner’s estimation
    Has 33 years in the penetentiary robbed her of that talent?

    This is the final Act in the play. Contrition, remorse, honesty and redemption.

    Ditto Soering.

  7. Stopper Crime,

    I think in fairness it ought to be said that whatever happened in the Berlin squat , it was done to her and to her friend treacherously by some guys who were probably small- time Irish criminals hiding out there for a while. It could have been mescaline in a prickly pear or LSD. Not entirely her fault. As for the question of EH’s drug use, I have said here before that I don’t believe she has ever injected or even used heroin. One one occasion she may have smoked opium off of tinfoil. Elizabeth at that time was building her reputation as a reckless, driven writer who lived dangerously on the edge. She fascinated fellow students at UVA, but a very important part of her story was carefully contrived fiction. However, she could be very funny, very charming, and as Jim Farmer told me, she was well-liked in a way that Jens Soering was not well-liked. She already had a following at UVA, she was someone to watch, like a young Kenneth Tynan, though she was not producing much writing, mostly conversation. She was fascinated with Morrison and the Doors and the dark glamour of Berlin. She kept a journal during her travels with her classmate in the summer of 1983, the journey which her family and others regarded as having ended so badly. She didn’t think so. She told the shrinks that it had been a “fabulous time.” There’s that twist that we don’t understand. Like in ‘Midnight in Paris; “Well, Mr. Dali, you’re a surrealist and I’m just a normal guy.” There is also the question whether she unable to appreciate dangerous situations because of her personality disorder. She did have a good idea for a novel, I think. It would have been about Berlin in the 80’s, the alternative life, heroin, addiction, the loving solidarity of the children of the Zoo station, the gay scene there, hopefully she might even meet an old Nazi. Any suffering endured would be deliciously hyped. Down and Out in the Kreuzberg. I think she is going to write about prison after she gets her job up and running. She sent Phyllis a huge pile of letters and prison documents, I think. I sent some along myself. She was engaged to marry two or three different guys at the time I knew her, and when I made some remarks about not being able to marry all of them, this was the beginning of the end. She said that I needed to ‘understand.’ I did understand. She was studying how men would respond emotionally to her and open up their intimate lives. They were spilling their guts. Cold. Or was it psychopathy? She loves women.

  8. The episode “Jens’ Story” is interesting as it is based on a prison phone call in October 2019, just before The Wright Report was published.

    Oh dear.

    He did seem to get carried away, making some uncharacterist slip ups.
    Maybe he already knew he was likely to be released and was secretly euphoric?

    1.He was repeatedly denied a lawyer and did not confess until day 3.
    Er…day 1 actually

    2.Having read several books on english law at the British Consul library in Thailand, so he could learn how to commit cheque fraud, he however failed to research whether he did indeed have diplomatic immunity.

    3. As a UVA Scholar he had lots of money and offered to pay off Elizabeth’s drug debts when she suddenly told him she had to disappear off on a drug run for Jim Farmer.

    In his confession, he stated that due to a lack of funds they were not able to do any dummy runs to Washington prior to commiting the murders.

    4. The amount of detail he is able to provide about when Elizabeth came back to their room is incredible.

    Which way she was looking.
    Which way he was looking.
    Her mouth was open, but she said nothing.
    She had changed her jeans and had a smudge of blood on her arm, but her hands were clean.

    Amazing memory, still, even in October 2019!

    And yet when he confessed 33 years earlier, he couldn’t remember what Nancy was wearing or the position of the bodies.

    The episode mentions Elizabeth’s (non existent) “plea agreement”

    1. Yes, that interview was conducted before the podcasters had reached out to the skeptics. Tomorrow, October 20, the podcast is going to release an episode which will contain long excerpts of an interview with me, so stay tuned!

  9. But the best bit from that episode was the revelation that Jim Updike’s wife got some T shirts printed:

    Local Yokel

    and

    I survived the Soering Trial

    Then took them to Soering in prison and asked him to autograph them

  10. Is it just a coincidence that both the publication of The Wright Report and this Blog’s comprehensive demolition of Soering’s story, happened just after his release?

    1. Yes it is. As I pointed out in the FAQ on my motivations, my first German-language article on Soering was published *the exact same day* his release was announced. This was pure, 100% coincidence.

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