A Virginia prisoner’s decades-long fight for freedom will be in the spotlight at two upcoming events in Norfolk.
A Far, Far Better Thing: Did a Fatal Attraction Lead to a Wrongful Conviction? will be one of the books featured at the Norfolk Public Library’s first annual Author Fair at the flagship Slover Library, 235 E. Plume St., the weekend of March 3-4. I co-wrote the book with Jens Soering, a German citizen who has been incarcerated nearly 32 years for the gruesome murders of his then-girlfriend’s parents in their home near Lynchburg in 1985.
A few days later, on Wednesday, March 7, Killing for Love, an award-winning documentary film about the case, will be screened at the Naro Expanded Cinema, 1507 Colley Ave., at 7:15 p.m. I’ll introduce the movie and lead a discussion afterward.
Both the book and the movie raise the disturbing possibility that Jens’ conviction was a tragic miscarriage of justice. He has been proclaiming his innocence since his 1990 trial when he recanted his initial confession to the murders, saying he had lied in a naïve attempt to save his girlfriend, Elizabeth Haysom, from the electric chair.
The case was the subject of an hour-long investigative report on the ABC show 20/20 on Feb. 9.
Jens and Elizabeth were brilliant honor students at the University of Virginia when Derek and Nancy Haysom were stabbed and slashed to death in their home. The young lovers were arrested in London a year later after months on the run through Europe and Asia.
In A Far, Far Better Thing, Jens – a prolific author who has written 10 books in prison — gives his first-hand account of the story and I analyze the evidence in the case. Most crucially, new DNA evidence that was not available in 1990 eliminates Jens as the source of bloodstains left at the crime scene and buttresses his theory that the murders were committed by Elizabeth and one or more unknown male accomplices. Jens’ innocence claim has attracted a wide range of high-profile supporters, including the original lead police investigator in the case.
Jens, who was 18 at the time of the crime, is now 51 and has exhausted his legal appeals. Unless he is paroled or pardoned by the governor, he will die in prison.
I’ll be on hand to sign books and discuss the case at the Norfolk book fair, March 3 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and March 4 from noon to 5 p.m., and at the Naro on March 7.