BEDFORD, VA., OCT. 8 -- Elizabeth Haysom, who testified this week that she deserved life in prison for her role in the murders of her parents, was sentenced today to 90 years.
"It is difficult to say why these crimes occurred," Circuit Judge William Sweeney said in imposing two consecutive 45-year sentences in the case. "We are left only with the feeling that this case is a grotesque monument to inappropriate response to parental hatred."
Haysom, 23, a Canadian citizen, pleaded guilty in August to first-degree murder as an accessory before the fact in the 1985 stabbing deaths of Derek and Nancy Haysom in their Boonsboro, Va., home near Lynchburg. She could have received a sentence of from 20 years to life.
The stabbings allegedly were committed by her boyfriend, Jens Soering, 21, a West German diplomat's son who is fighting extradition from England on murder charges that could bring him the death penalty in Virginia. He and Haysom were being held there on charges of credit card abuses.
Commonwealth's Attorney James Updike Jr. had asked for the maximum sentence of life imprisonment for Haysom. Asked whether he was satisfied with the sentence handed down, Updike said, "I maintained all along that I would seek maximum punishment in this case."
Haysom, who met Soering and fell in love with him when they were students at the University of Virginia, declined to comment as she was led from the courtroom. Her relatives, members of a prosperous South African family that obtained its wealth from sugar holdings, also declined to comment.
Updike said Haysom would be eligible for parole after 12 years. She will be held at the state prison for women in Goochland County.
Andrew Davis, Haysom's lawyer, said in closing arguments at the three-day sentencing hearing that the court "needs to look at Miss Haysom for who she is and who she has been. She is not a principal. She was not present. She was 180 miles away when her parents were killed."
Haysom had testified that she and Soering rented a motel room in Washington, and that she was in Washington during the time of the murders.
Davis also said letters between his client and Soering could be interpreted as planning the murders but that was not necessarily the case.
"They were taken by Jens Soering to do what was vaguely or metaphorically suggested and that was what happened," he said.
He also said Haysom stayed with Soering after the murders because she was lonely and scared. "After her parents' death, she had no one to turn to except for the person who killed her parents. That is tragic," he said.
Updike, in his closing arguments, said the series of letters between Haysom and Soering in which she talked about her wish to see her parents dead "convicts this individual and . . . establishes the basis for the punishment we're seeking."
"The defendant has changed her story . . . . But she cannot change what is written," Updike said.
Haysom testified Wednesday she deserved the maximum sentence, although she had insisted during about seven hours of testimony over two days that she did not want her parents murdered.
"I'm afraid, sir, it was a fantasy of mine for many years that my parents would die," Haysom said under questioning from Updike. "I did not want my parents murdered, but there was a large part of me that wanted them out of my life."