NBC 29 STAFF - RICHMOND, Va. (NBC 29) - An ex-German exchange student at the University of Virginia serving a life sentence for the Bedford County murder of his then-girlfriend's parents may have a shot at freedom.
Thirty-one years after the crime, Jens Soering and his backers say a DNA analysis should set him free. Soering has also been pursuing a pardon from the Governor of Virginia.
Soering's team says new analysis of DNA collected at the crime scene eliminates him from the double murder. On Thursday they testified before the parole board.
Soering's attorney, Steve Rosenfield, says a blood analysis shows Soering is not connected to the case.
"So now we know for the first time that there were two male participants at the crime scene, neither of which was Jens Soering," said Rosenfield.
Lawyers, investigators, and several people who have examined the Soering case spoke on his behalf Thursday before a parole board member.
"The parole board is supposed to make a determination about whether somebody is safe to release, and by everybody's standard, somebody who was innocent should not be in prison," said Rosenfield.
Soering believes his girlfriend at the time, Elizabeth Haysom, and two others murdered her parents.
He spoke to us over the phone from Buckingham Correctional Center. He proposes Haysom was motivated by sexual abuse.
"Now who did this with Elizabeth? I just don't know. She was a drug addict, and I believe that the people that she found to do this with her came out of that part of her life," said Jens Soering, a convicted killer.
Soering confessed to the crime years ago, but says it was because he was afraid his then-companion would face the electric chair, and he could be sent back to Germany.
Now, he says that was a mistake.
"I have lost all of my twenties, all of my thirties, all of my forties, it has hurt me? And for what? For a misdemeanor, because I lied to the police because I wanted to play the hero for my girlfriend and save her life," said Soering.
A former investigator and a member of the attorney general's office are among those who say there was not enough evidence to convict Soering.
"I reviewed everything, felt that the trial was very unfair and the more that I went into it I also became convinced of his innocence," said Gail Marshall, a former deputy attorney general of Virginia.
This is the 12th time Soering has sought parole.
"If you know the facts you don't know how on earth he could be where he is today," said Gail Ball, a lawyer.
It's open-ended how long this review could take. He has also been pleading his case to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe who has the power to grant a pardon.
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