A German diplomat’s son convicted of murder in Virginia in a case that has attracted international attention will not be allowed to go back to his native country.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday denied a transfer petition from Jens Soering, who is serving two life sentences for a 1985 double murder.
“The Governor and his team carefully reviewed the petition and Mr. Soering’s case and determined his trial and conviction were in accordance with Virginia law,” spokesman Brian Coy said in a statement. “Nothing else in Mr. Soering’s petition justified his transfer to Germany and his probable eventual release.”
Soering was convicted in the killings of his then-girlfriend’s parents, Derek and Nancy Haysom of Bedford County, in central Virginia.
In 2010, in one of his last acts as governor, Timothy M. Kaine (D) agreed to allow Soering to transfer to a prison in Germany, where he would have been eligible for parole after two years. But the planned prisoner transfer was promptly halted by his successor, then-Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R).
Earlier this year Soering wrote to McAuliffe again asking for a transfer. The New Yorker has reported that officials in Germany, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, have raised the repatriation issue.
Soering has been eligible for parole for years in the United States, but his requests have always been rejected. There was bipartisan support for blocking his transfer in 2010, with lawmakers noting that the murders were particularly grisly. Both victims had been stabbed multiple times and their throats cut from ear to ear. Prosecutors said they were killed because they disapproved of their daughter’s relationship with Soering.
Soering and Elizabeth Haysom, his girlfriend when they attended the University of Virginia, fled overseas and were arrested in England. Haysom agreed to return to Virginia, but Soering fought removal. A diplomatic agreement reduced the charges against him from capital murder, for which he could have been sentenced to death, to first-degree murder.
Haysom is serving a 90-year sentence for her role in the killings. She testified against Soering, who insisted during his trial and since then that he is innocent.
Republicans tried to make the Soering case an issue against Kaine in 2012, when he ran for Senate against former senator George Allen (R). Republicans accused Kaine of failing to fully explain his reasons for requesting the transfer. Kaine offered a financial rationale, saying that Germany, not Virginia, should spend money on Soering’s incarceration.
Several newspapers and Soering himself, in an op-ed in The Washington Post, predicted that Republicans would make Kaine the “Willie Horton of 2012.” But voters were either satisfied with Kaine’s explanation or motivated by other issues; Kaine beat Allen for the Senate seat.
The Soering matter is resurfacing at a time when Kaine is often mentioned as a potential running mate for Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. It also comes as Del. Robert B. Bell (Albemarle), who led efforts to block the transfer in 2010, is seeking higher office.
Bell invoked the case as he formally launched his campaign last week. He said Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D), who is seeking reelection, had not taken a public stand on Soering’s most recent effort to return to Germany.
On Monday, Herring spokesman Michael Kelly said the attorney general wants Soering to remain behind bars in Virginia. Kelly also noted that as a state senator in 2010 Herring voted in favor of a Senate resolution opposing Soering’s transfer.