BOONSBORO, VA. -- Elizabeth Roxanne Haysom and Jens Soering were an instant hit as a couple.
They met in the fall of 1984 when they entered the University of Virginia as Echols Scholars, part of a program that brings together the school's brightest freshman prospects. Discovering that they shared exotic backgrounds as well as academic excellence, they quickly became inseparable, friends recall.
But the relationship failed to win the approval of Haysom's parents. It so upset them that they reportedly sought to withdraw their daughter from school, and threatened to disinherit her if she did not break up with Soering.
Today, Haysom, now 23, is to go on trial here in Bedford County for the March 1985 murders of her parents, Derek and Nancy Haysom, who were stabbed to death in their home just outside Lynchburg, Va.
Soering, also charged with the crime, remains in jail in London, appealing extradition, which may be contingent on Virginia officials agreeing to drop a charge of capital murder, which carries a possible death penalty.
Lizzie Haysom, who had attended a boarding school, was born in Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe), to a father who was an international industrialist and a mother who was from a distinguished Virginia family. She grew up in Luxembourg and Nova Scotia, writes short stories and speaks with a soft English accent.
The baby-faced Soering, born in Bangkok to a West German diplomat and his wife, played guitar in a rock band, Ground Zero, in prep school and wanted to be a filmmaker. He spent his teens in Atlanta, where his father was vice consul in the West German consulate.
Soering also was a Jefferson Scholar, the university's most prestigious award, given annually to 18 freshmen nominated by their secondary schools in a national competition. Unlike the honorary Echols, the Jefferson is a full scholarship, worth $7,500 that year to Soering, a graduate of the Lovett School in Atlanta.
Initially, Haysom and Soering, who attended her parents' funerals together, were not suspects. They were arrested on murder charges last year in London, where they were serving one-year jail sentences for bank fraud.
Haysom returned to the United States voluntarily on May 8, and was indicted June 13 on two counts of first-degree murder, which carry life sentences upon conviction. She was assigned two court-appointed attorneys after she declared that her assets totaled $30.
Soering's extradition was ordered June 16 after a daylong hearing in which London's chief magistrate was presented with alleged confessions by Soering. Prosecutor Paul Garlick, representing the U.S. government, read a statement from Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Kenneth Beaver that quoted Soering as saying, "If I'm tried in Virginia, they'll fry me, you know, the electric chair. You know I killed two people."
Beaver, who interviewed Haysom and Soering, is one of two Scotland Yard detectives who have been subpoenaed as prosecution witnesses in Haysom's trial.
Her defense is expected to include testimony that she was not present at the time of the murders, but was waiting for Soering in Washington.
Soering told British investigators that on the weekend of the murders, he and Haysom rented a car in Charlottesville, drove to Washington and checked in at the Marriott Hotel on 22nd Street NW. He then drove the 175 miles to Boonsboro for a "heart-to-heart chat" with her parents.
Beaver said Soering told him that after eating dinner with the Haysoms, an argument developed during which Derek Haysom struck Soering, who then "freaked out" and attacked the Haysoms with a seven-inch knife.
Derek Haysom, 72, was stabbed 37 times, and his 53-year-old wife, six times.
Haysom was supposed to establish an alibi for Soering, he allegedly told Scotland Yard, by purchasing tickets to a movie in Georgetown, where Soering met her on his return. After that, Soering said, they went to the hotel, changed clothes and returned to school the next day, according to Beaver.
Soering said he later realized that the odometer of the rental car would show that he had driven farther than the distance to Washington and back, according to Beaver.
When they returned to school in the fall of 1985, Haysom and Soering moved into an off-campus apartment, but sometime in October, they stopped attending classes and dropped out of sight.
Investigators later learned that Soering and Haysom had taken separate flights to Brussels, where they began an odyssey that took them to Bangkok and then on a tour of Europe. They wound up in London, where they rented a flat on Baker Street -- home of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes -- and posed as Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Noe of Nova Scotia.
In April 1986, they were arrested by a British department store detective. He had accompanied them home after they were unable to produce satisfactory identification when questioned about a series of transactions in which they returned goods, paid for by check, for cash refunds.
Police discovered that the two had collected about 6,500 pounds ($9,000) in a scheme in which, posing as students, they opened a series of small accounts in banks in university towns, upon which they wrote checks for merchandise, always at a Marks and Spencer store, and then returned the purchases for cash refunds a short time later.
A search of their London flat uncovered several bags of merchandise, systematically tagged with records of when and where they were purchased, and a collection of wigs and false mustaches, one of which Soering was wearing at the time of his arrest.
Meanwhile, in Bedford County, the murder investigations conducted by Sheriff Carl Wells and Commonwealth's Attorney James W. Updike Jr. began focusing on the young couple. Soering's abrupt departure from the University of Virginia coincided with his failure to show up in Bedford for scheduled blood and footprint tests.
Word that the couple was wanted for questioning in the murders stirred the sensational British tabloids, which printed such headlines as "American Heiress, Boyfriend Wanted in Voodoo Murders of her Parents."
The voodoo reference came from reports, later denied, that the number 666, a demonic sign, had been carved in the Haysoms' floor, and that the killer had danced in the victims' blood.
The Haysoms had been "the epitome of gentility," according to Randy Ferry, who had sold them a house and 10 acres of his estate in the rolling hills.
Nancy Benedict Haysom was born in Phoenix. When she was 5, her father, Platt Carico Benedict, a geologist and mining engineer, set off on a globe-trotting adventure that took him to five continents, panning gold in the Arctic and digging diamonds in Africa.
She and her brothers returned with their mother, Nancy Langhorne Gibbes, to Lynchburg, where the family had lived for five generations. Her grandmother's first cousin, Nancy Witcher Langhorne, from down the road at Danville, gained world attention by marrying into the British peerage, and as Lady Astor became the first woman to sit in the House of Commons.
After Nancy Benedict graduated from high school, the family was reunited in Johannesburg, where she fell in a love with an Englishman whom she later married, with Lady Astor among the guests, on his estate near Stratford-on-Avon.
The couple had two children, but the marriage failed, and she returned to Africa. There, in 1960, she married W.R. Derek Haysom, an urbane industrialist 19 years her senior.
Haysom, a native of South Africa whose grandfather was a rags-to-riches sugar pioneer, rose through the ranks to become chief executive officer of the Rhodesian Iron and Steel Corp. In 1965, reportedly in protest against the separatist policies of Prime Minister Ian Smith, the Haysoms moved to Luxembourg, and later to Nova Scotia.
By 1973, he had risen to board chairman of the largest steel company in that Canadian province, and then joined the province's economic development agency.
In 1983, the Haysoms moved to the Lynchburg area, where one neighbor compared him to the debonair British actor David Niven.
Shortly before her death, a friend, chiding Nancy Haysom about her passion for building stone walls in her garden, asked how many more she planned. "This is my last," she said.