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

Steinberger, Vetter und das Zünglein auf der Waage: “Stranger *than* oder *in* Paradise”

Es gibt dutzende Stellen in Das Versprechen, wo die Filmemacher Belastendes weglassen, um Sörings Glaubwürdigkeit und die Plausibilität seiner bizarren Geschichte zu untermauern. Hier noch ein Beispiel.

I. Stranger than Paradise

Stranger than Paradise war der Durchbruchsfilm des US-amerikanischen Kultregisseurs Jim Jarmusch. Der Film gilt heutzutage als Klassiker.1 Es gibt meines Wissens keinen Film namens Stranger in Paradise, aber sehr wohl ein Lied aus dem Jahr 1953. Obwohl Stranger than Paradise 1984 in den Kinos gekommen war, wurde der Kultfilm in den Jahren danach öfters spät am Abend gezeigt, um bekiffte Studenten zu beglücken.

II. Warum ist Stranger than Paradise wichtig?

Der Film war ein wichtiges Thema bei Sörings Hauptverfahren im Juni 1990. Warum? Weil Elizabeth Haysom Tickets für den Film gekauft hat, um ein Alibi für Söring aufzustellen. Die Aufführung fand am 22:15 am 30. März 1985 statt. Zu dieser Zeit war Jens Söring schon lange von Washington, D.C. aus nach Lynchburg unterwegs, möglicherweise war er schon bei den Haysoms. Oder aber laut Söring’s Geschichte, war Elizabeth zu dieser Zeit schon lange unterwegs nach…irgendwo (das Ziel ändert sich je nach der derzeit gültiger Fassung von Sörings Geschichte).

Fest steht: Falls jemand beweisen kann, dass er/sie tatsächlich den Film (1) im Kino; (2) zu dieser Zeit (22:15) gesehen hat, kann er/sie als Haupttäter ausgeschlossen werden. Natürlich konnte weder Söring noch Haysom beweisen, dass er/sie tatsächlich da im Kinosaal saß. Aber vielleicht konnte er/sie die Jury aufgrund von Indizien (Kenntnis der Handlung, Ausstattung des Kinos, usw.) davon überzeugen, dass er/sie höchstwahrscheinlich doch da saß.

III. Wieder mal stellt Team Söring eine Falschdarstellung in die Welt

Haysom behauptete sowohl bei ihrem als auch beim Sörings Prozess, dass sie die Tickets zwar gekauft hatte, den Film aber nicht gesehen hat (siehe unten). Es ist also nicht besonders relevant, ob sie den richtigen Namen des Films wiedergeben konnte.

Söring aber sagte bei seinem Prozess aus, dass er den Film tatsächlich gesehen hat. Der Grund dafür liegt auf der Hand: Wenn er bei dieser Aufführung im Kinosaal war, kann er die Haysoms unmöglich (oder nur unter radikal anderen Umständen wie angenommen) umgebracht haben. Mehr dazu unten.

Trotzdem hielte es Team Söring für wichtig, dass Elizabeth den richtigen Namen des Films nicht wusste. Hier können Sie eine Pressemitteilung lesen, die Söring und seine Anhänger am 27.9.2017 in den USA veröffentlicht haben. Auf Seite 24 (pdf-Nummerieung) steht Folgendes (wahrscheinlich von Sörings Anwalt verfasst):

Haysom behauptete, einen Film namens “Stranger in Paradise” gesehen zu haben. Ferner sagte sie, dass sie einen zweiten Film um “ca. 16:00 Uhr, schätze ich mal” gesehen hatte. Die originale Kinotickets wurden als Beweisstücke beim Hauptverfahren gegen Jens Söring eingeführt. Auf ihnen sind die korrekte Namen — “Stranger than Paradise” und die korrekte Aufführungszeiten — 17:05 und 22:15 — aufgedruckt.

[Haysom claimed to have seen a movie called “Stranger in Paradise.” She further testified that she attended a second movie “about 4:00 p.m., I think.” The original movie ticket stubs were introduced into evidence at Jens Soering’s trial. They had the correct names — “Stranger Than Paradise” — and the correct times — 5:05 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. — printed on them.]

Hervorhebung meinerseits. Diese Behauptung ist falsch. Haysom hat nie behauptet, irgendeinen Film gesehen zu haben:

Aussage von Elizabeth Haysom bei ihrem Prozess (Commonwealth v. Haysom, 05 Oktober 87, p. 167, 168-96):

“So what eventually happened is that he took me to a movie up in, I’m not sure where it is, north of Georgetown I believe, and he dropped me off at the movie. And as soon as he was gone – he watched me go in and buy the tickets. As soon as he was gone I was out and I went to a bar next door. And there were some sports on the TV and I bought some drinks and I scored some, a couple of grams of heroin and I went into the back and it was no good, it did very little. And then I tried to get some more money with my MOST card, MOST machine, automatic teller things, but there was some – my branch didn’t have affiliation with the branch or something so I couldn’t get any money out. So at sometime that afternoon I scored some more heroin because my appetite had been whetted I guess, so I went and I got some more and I got some acid. And then I came back to the hotel and while I was at the hotel I ordered room service…

Q Was there some discussion between you and Jens about that, about the movie tickets and an alibi?
A After the fact, yes, sir.
Q When after the fact?
A When he came back. Not directly after he came back, but on the Sunday. He assumed that I had been to the cinema, so I let him carry on assuming that I had been to the cinema….

Aussage von Elizabeth Haysom bei Commonwealth v. Soering, 13. Juni 1990, S. 172, 176, 178:

A I believe that the first movie, I know that the two movies I was supposed to attend were Stranger in Paradise and Witness; I’m not sure which order I was supposed to see them in.
Q You say that you bought those two tickets, did you see the movie?
A No, I did not….

…I was doped up, I wandered around, I guess, and then I had to go to the next movie about 4:00, I think, something like that. And I went to that movie, and I got the tickets.
Q Did you watch that movie or go into that movie?
A No, I did not.
Q Please continue.
A So I had the tickets, and I really just did more of the same. As far as I was concerned, it was junky’s heaven in Washington, you have got some money in your pocket, nobody to bother you…

Q So you ordered the room service, and describe what happened then. What happened next? You were there at the hotel at this point?
A Well I had the room service and everything. I stayed at the hotel until about 11:00 [d.h. 23:00, 30. März 1985], I guess, something like that, I’m not sure, 10:30, 11:00, and I snuck out…”

Haysom hat also nie vor Gericht behauptet, “Stranger than Paradise” gesehen zu haben. Sie sagte stattdessen, dass sie zur Aufführungszeit des Films im Hotel war, und eine Zimmerservice-Mahlzeit aß.

Trotzdem wird ihre falsche Wiedergabe des Filmtitels als Beweis für ihre fehlende Glaubwürdigkeit bzw. Beteiligung an den Morden angeführt. So die Logik: Sie habe (1) den falschen Filmtitel angegeben, weil sie (2) den Film nie gesehen habe, weil sie (3) zu der Zeit auf dem Weg nach Loose Chippings geworden sei, um (4) die eigene Eltern im Drogenrausch umzubringen.

IV. Was sagte Söring?

Es gab aber ein kleines Problem für Söring. Auch er konnte den Filmtitel nicht richtig wiedergeben. Ich zitiere aus seiner Aussage (direkter Vernehmung, d.h. einvernehmlich zusammen mit seinen Anwälten Rick Neaton und William A. Cleaveland abgestimmter gerichtlicher Aussage), 18. Juni 1990, Band 1:

Sörings Anwalt Rick Neaton stellt die Fragen:

  • S. 60: “Question: And do you remember the name of the movie that you saw?
    Answer: Stranger in Paradise.”…
  • S. 60: “Question: Now I’d like to you to point out the tickets that you bought for Stranger in Paradise.
    Answer: These two, it says Stranger on it.”;…
  • S. 62: “Question: Now after you got out of the 10:15 showing of Stranger in Paradise, what did you do?
    Answer: Well, I went outside and found a phone, called the hotel, because I was expecting Elizabeth to be back, and I wanted to make sure she was okay.”

Auch Söring gibt den Falschen Titel an. Interessanterweise hat Söring soweit ich weiß niemand nach der Handlung von Stranger than Paradise gefragt, wie mehrmals in den Kommentaren zu diesem Blog (auf Englisch) hingewiesen worden ist.

Jetzt kommen wir zum Film von Markus Vetter und Karin Steinberger. Es gibt mehrere Aufarbeitungen des Stoffs (Doku-Feature, Film, Podcast, usw.). Hier ein Feature aus dem Jahr 2018, der natürlich wegen Sörings Buch neulich aktualisiert wurde. Ein Auszug aus dem Manuskript zur Sendung:

O-Ton Jens [Beim Hauptverfahren 1990]: I went up to the room, watched TV. Waited.
Sprecher 1 Ich ging hoch aufs Zimmer, schaute fern.

O-Ton Jens [Beim Interview in Gefängnis in Virginia 2013]: …dann bin ich um 10 Uhr 15 in ‘Stranger than Paradise‘ gegangen und Mitternacht zur Rocky Horror Picture Show. Ich hab mir diese Filme angesehen und ärgerte mich die ganze Zeit, dass ich das gemacht hatte. Ich wusste, dass irgendwas nicht stimmt.

Vetter und Steinberger hatten Zugang zu allen Fernsehaufnahmen von Sörings Prozess — den Aufnahmen, in denen Söring fälschlicherweise den Filmtitel als Stranger in Paradise wiedergab, weil er den Film nicht gesehen hat, weil er zu diesem Zeitpunkt auf dem Weg nach Lynchburg war, um die Haysoms zu konfrontieren.

Aber das passt nicht zum Justizopfer-Bild. Wenn man den O-Ton-Auszug von Sörings Prozess im Juni 1990 nur ein paar Sekunden hätte weiter laufen lassen, hätten die Zuhörer erfahren können, dass auch Söring den Filmtitel nicht kannte. Vermutlich deshalb landeten den Rest seiner gerichtlichen Aussage auf dem Boden des Schneideraums.

Stattdessen hören wir einen Auszug aus einem Interview von 2013. Söring hatte zu dieser Zeit 23 Jahre gehabt, um den richtigen Titel des Films zu erfahren, und seine Geschichte dementsprechend zu retuschieren.

Mit der tatkräftigen Hilfe seiner Freunde. Oder doch Ex-Freunde?

  1. Wikipedia: Stranger Than Paradise broke many conventions of traditional Hollywood filmmaking and became a landmark in modern independent film. According to allmovie, it is “one of the most influential movies of the 1980s”, and cast “a wide shadow over the new generation of independent American filmmakers to come. It is cited for giving “an early example of the low-budget independent wave that would dominate the cinematic marketplace a decade later”. Its success accorded Jarmusch a certain iconic status within arthouse cinema as an idiosyncratic and uncompromising auteur exuding the aura of urban cool embodied by downtown Manhattan. In a 2005 profile of Jarmusch for The New York Times, critic Lynn Hirschberg declared the film had “permanently upended the idea of independent film as an intrinsically inaccessible avant-garde form”

10 thoughts on “Steinberger, Vetter und das Zünglein auf der Waage: “Stranger *than* oder *in* Paradise””

  1. Tolle Arbeit, die Sie hier mit Ihrem Blog leisten, Herr Hammel. Wann kommt endlich Ihr Buch heraus? Ich kann es kaum erwarten!

  2. Grosses Lob an Herr.Hammel! Ich hoffe auch das sein Buch bald mal rauskommt… Bestelle es sofort

  3. Over spring vacation, while Elizabeth was skiing in Colorado, Soering was invited by a fellow student to his family home in Northern Virginia. The two of them went into Washington and saw the film ‘Stranger than Paradise’.

  4. Jens Soering alleges in the Vetter/Steinberger film that the nude photos of Elizabeth Haysom were made of her when she was in her late teens by her mother, Nancy Haysom. Elizabeth would have been 17 in 1982. The family home was in Nova Scotia, and Elizabeth lived there when she was home from school in England during those years.

    Soering also states that there was atrocious sexual abuse by her mother, which had gone on for a long time. for years, in fact, something that her father should have known.

    But the photos were made in the Boonsboro retirement home. I have seen these photos and I have no doubt about this. That house was thoroughly photographed by police; the settings are easily recognized. The house was bought in 1983. Elizabeth was returned to Nova Scotia in November of 1983; she came to live at Lynchburg, in that house, at Christmas of 1983. The photographs had to have been made between that time and late March of 1985. The length of Elizabeth’s hair in other photos taken in March of 1985 seems approximately the same as in these photos. As of November, 1983, she had had a mohawk. My own thinking on this is that the photos were probably not more than six months old.

    Soering’s strong statement about her mother’s purported sexual abuse contradicts Elizabeth’s changing stories to psychiatrists on this issue over the years. I could go on about both of these matters, but will not do so here. I have stated before that I do not believe Elizabeth’s accusations.

    Why did Soering lie about the photographs?

    One thing his statements do, they remove the possibility– a possibility which almost inevitably crosses the mind of a student of this case– that the photos had been made recently by Elizabeth, perhaps in late 1984 after they had met and she began to be certain of him (subtly discerning that he had a violent component to his personality), or in early 1985, to serve as actual false ‘evidence’ supporting her delusions and her psychotically intense, ongoing accounts of victimization by her parents.

    1. I agree and assume you are inferring that Soering planted the photos Elizabeth had given him in Nancy’s bureau after committing the murders?
      How must Nancy’s family feel today, particularly those who have taken her in?

      1. I don’t think Soering planted the photos. He gives his account of being shown the photos on Page 55-56 of ‘A Far, Far Better Thing.’ He says they were in a ‘cabinet ‘ in the living room. Ken Englade says in ‘Beyond Reason’ that they were ‘found in Nancy’s bureau.’ (Page 327.) I take Mrs. Massie’s account as being the most logical place for them to have been found. “They were in Elizabeth’s bedroom”, she said in testimony found in the October 6,1987 transcript. (Page 472.)

        I would just like to repeat here: Soering had seen ‘Stranger than Paradise’ before March 30, 1987. His visit to the home of a classmate must have taken place at the beginning of spring break, and it could very well have been on the weekend of March 2, 1985; and it could be that it was on that Saturday that they saw the film in DC. I don’t really have any doubt at all that the movie was folded into the planning of the crime as an alibi. And these murders were planned, if you consider what was found afterwards , including such things as the Victor mouse trap and the finger-drawn signs of a voodoo ceremony left on the bloody floor.

        As to Soering’s visit, his classmate’s mother remembered Jens later on. She was surprised. She thought he had been a very nice guest. He had even made his bed.

  5. Putting to one side various interviews with psychiatrists, Elizabeth only went public about the abuse in 2016 and Soering seized upon it.
    He correctly stated she was using it to get early release, but he deliberately lied when he said she was finally telling the truth after all these years.

  6. @Francis Wheatley. Forget about nude pictures the police had found or what Soering had said about. What about her own descriptions of her abuse beginning at 14 or so according the police.
    She described touching in lying in the same bad or bathtube and it ends with “if your mother is your lover” in 2016?

  7. She was suffering at some point from her teenage years from what I would politely call ‘mental disease.’ She definitely was evaluated by psychologists in 1987 as having a penchant for psychotic thinking. Also hallucinations and delusions. She was tested by a neurologist in 1983 in Nova Scotia, and then later in Virginia again, for out of body experiences, which she described as being debilitating and alarming. She would be outside her body looking down at herself and could not function for that interval of time even if she were out on the street in Berlin. (There were no witnesses.) Then, in 1987, she told UVA psychologists that she had out of body experiences but could CONTROL them apparently at will! Noone explored this issue further. Why? Because we know the neurologists and later on presumably the psychologists, as well, had made the evaluation that this problem did not exist. The problem was that she had a Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), which is a condition that I think might simply be another way of placing the patient into the zone of the unkind diagnosis “psychopath.”

    The presence of a current psychotic disorder was ultimately ruled out, which meant she could be tried. But there were indications from her MMPI profile that she might then actually be going into psychosis. And this was one month before trial. Other testing gave signs of high levels of distress. The psychologists recommended that she be closely monitored. They warned that she could break down at trial, that her ability to function may deteriorate under stress.

    In the desperate hours during which Jens Soering made his plans for escape from America, she was reluctant to leave and follow him. She told him that she had gone over to the UVA hospital and had had a tumor removed, by experimental brain surgery; I wonder if she meant by gamma knife, which is no longer experimental. I recall seeing a napkin from the UVA hospital cafeteria among the collection of items Jens Soering had simply thrown lump sum style into evidence. She had simply sat there all afternoon in desperate indecision and had written something on this napkin. I forget what.
    Evidence of the operation?

    I wonder what he must have been thinking. He killed two people because of what she had
    told him?

    I believe that her allegations that her mother sexually abused her are rubbish. Even in 1987 she told the University of Virginia Forensic Psychiatric Clinic psychologists that ” no genital contact occurred.”

    What is remarkable about what she said about the photographs is that her suggestions of sado-masochist intent, which would be the reason for them being made –putting her into a naked submissive position, in some of them, for example; this can be refuted on the face of it by a simple study of the photograph. In some of them she is not kneeling, as in a suppliant or submissive posture to a dungeon master, if you will–to her mother, the alleged unseen photographer. It is a posture of worship, all right, but it is to a book. Shakespeare, to be precise; that is the title visible.

    Elizabeth and Jens are both people of the lie. After thirty years, they are both still lying.

    1. My comment is wrong that the date of March 2, 1985, might be when Soering and his fellow classmate saw ‘Stranger than Paradise’ in Washington, D.C. at that same movie theater on Wisconsin Avenue. Classes at the University of Virginia School of Engineering ended on Friday, March 8, 1985, and resumed on Monday, March 18. I assume the other schools followed suit. So the visit is more likely to have been over the weekend of Saturday, March 9, 1985 . I know it had to have been early in the vacation because Soering has told us he was writing a screen play over most of spring vacation about an unconventional detective who solves crimes by using Zen. Soering kept a remarkable amount of dangerously incriminating documents. I have often wondered why. But the screen play has disappeared. I was told by a student, who seemed to me to have been among a small of group of students who had studied his unusual character fairly closely, and who knew that Soering had been working intensely on a screen play about a murder, that if you could find it, “it would be the mother lode.” I have a little theory about why Soering realized the screen play would be dangerous and had to disappear. I think his fictional detective took the law into his own hands.

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