I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.
Nancy Astor Benedict may have been born in Arizona but, just like her mother, her heart was in Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and it was where she would return for the final years of her life.
First, however, there was a failed marriage that produced two sons but her second marriage was her final one.
When Nancy met Derek Haysom, she instantly fell in love – despite her being only 27 years old to Derek’s 46. Born in South Africa to British parents, Derek was a divorcee with four children and earned a nice living as an engineer.
After Derek and Nancy married in 1960, they added one more to their brood: a daughter, Elizabeth Roxanne Haysom. While they lived in several countries before settling in Virginia, Elizabeth would attend the British prep school of Wycombe Abbey to complete her middle and high school education.
During her time at Wycombe Abbey, Elizabeth exhibited a great amount of ambition and was highly intelligent. And Elizabeth had a penchant for drama.
Lot of drama – on or off stage.
Spoiled Broad from Abroad
From the time she was born in Rhodesia, South Africa, Elizabeth was a child who demanded a lot of attention. Being ten years younger than her closest sibling, this task fell mainly on her parents.
Wanting their daughter to have the best education possible, they enrolled her in Wycombe Abbey, a boarding school just about a hour northwest of London. At first Elizabeth had trouble fitting in but, after a couple of years, she learned the traditions, mannerisms, and such of the country and became more accepted among her peers. But even though she now had some semblance of a social life, Elizabeth maintained a strict regime of schoolwork in addition to her music and acting activities.
During her last years of schooling, Derek and Nancy enrolled Elizabeth in high level science and mathematics classes in anticipation of her following her father into a career of engineering. However, Elizabeth’s strongest talents lay within the more artistic courses and her grades plummeted. As such, she was forced to attend high school for an additional year.
This was when, according to Elizabeth, she began to resent her parents and began to rebel against the high expectations being thrust upon her.
One of the first things Elizabeth done, she later claimed she was framed for. A few girls at Wycombe Abbey were caught with drugs and, per Elizabeth, blamed her because they knew school officials would believe the “foreign” girl did it. As part of her punishment, Elizabeth was prohibited from using the telephone and, as such, was out of touch with her parents for several days; which, she later claimed, is what led to her running away from the school for almost five months.
When she returned to Wycombe Abbey, most of her friends had moved on and Elizabeth began to seethe even more at the overbearing presumptions of her parents that had set her back a year. As she sat in her dorm room alone, brooding over the injustices, she began to think back to all the ways her parents had done her wrong; such as, when she was raped at 10-years-old at her school in Switzerland and her parents chose to ignore the incident and the time she was physically attacked by a teen boy at her school in Nova Scotia because of her father’s job.
Funny thing about it, though, was Elizabeth exaggerated these incidents in her mind. For example, the rape she had claimed to suffer was merely a case of indecent exposure. And the physical assault in Nova Scotia? Well, she claimed to have had her two front teeth knocked out while having her face bashed against a brick wall, but it was obvious she still had her natural front teeth and there was only a very, very small scar on her chin.
During her last year at Wycombe Abbey, Elizabeth began experimenting with drugs and her sexuality, doing both quite openly. In 1983, homosexuality was only beginning to be accepted in Europe but not according to the prep school rules. Elizabeth was told she was going to have to leave and return to her parents in Canada.
Being expelled from Wycombe Abbey meant that Elizabeth would not be accepted to her desired Trinity College and her girlfriend had been rejected by Oxford, so the two decided to throw caution to the wind and headed out on their own.
From July until October, the two girls survived by taking odd jobs, stealing food when possible, sleeping in strangers apartments and homes, selling their blood, and prostituting themselves as they traveled through France, Italy, and Germany, until, tired and destitute, finally they dragged themselves to the British Consulate to ask for train tickets back to Britain.
Elizabeth was returned to her parents, who were rather exhausted by their daughters’ waywardness by this time. When Derek was offered a job in Virginia, he and Nancy decided it would be the best move for them all; and they were hopeful that Elizabeth would be accepted by the University of Virginia.
Elizabeth went along, but she saw it as one more way her parents were controlling her life.
And she was very, very unhappy about that.
In 1984, Elizabeth enrolled at the University of Virginia. As it was when she first began school at Wycombe Abbey, Elizabeth had trouble fitting in with her schoolmates.
Then she met Jens Soering, a German born eighteen year old who was the son of a diplomat. Small and squirrelly, Jens was off-putting to other students with his arrogance and support of Nazism.
At first, Elizabeth thought Jens to be wimpy but the more she talked with him, the more she learned they had a lot in common, especially their snootiness toward Americans and their resentment of family.
Elizabeth spent hours talking to Jens about how she was assaulted and her parents seemed to not care, sending her overseas to school instead. She told him about running away a couple of times and her expulsion from Wycombe Abbey. Jens, in turn, dripped venom from his voice as he told Elizabeth about his wealthy maternal grandmother who had refused to give her daughter (Jens’ mother) money to divorce his strict father; money to which he believed he and his mother were rightfully entitled a portion.
Jens was appalled when Elizabeth told him about the one afternoon after she moved home with her parents that Nancy forced her to strip and assume strange poses while she photographed her. According to Elizabeth, it wasn’t the first time she had been “used” by her mother. When Jens asked her how she was able to live with such abuse, Elizabeth said she’d just learned to cope and held on to a secret wish.
“I wish they were dead,” she said.
Derek and Nancy didn’t like Jens from the moment they laid eyes on him. He was arrogant and cynical. Jens also seemed to fuel Elizabeth’s dramatics and exaggerations, which they had long grown weary of.
They didn’t hide their feelings from Elizabeth and bluntly told her they did not like Jens. Her parents encouraged her to meet other boys, to consider all the fish in the sea. But Elizabeth loved Jens and that’s who she wanted to be with. There was no one else in Elizabeth’s mind.
Elizabeth, on the other hand, didn’t keep her parents’ feelings secret from Jens either. She was angry that her parents tried to control every aspect of her life, even her love life. And every time she brought it up, Jens grew more angry.
What was there not to like about him?
Changing Daddy's Mind
Elizabeth and Jens had it all worked out. They would rent a car and travel to the Washington D.C. area. They would rent a hotel room and Elizabeth would go to the movies, buying two tickets to two movies, while Jens went to her parents’ home and had a heart to heart with them.
On March 30, 1985, they set the plan into action.
After eight o’clock that evening, when there came a knock on the door at Loose Chippings, the name Nancy had given to their home, Derek and Nancy wondering who could have come calling at such a late hour.
On their doorstep, they found Jens. When they asked where Elizabeth was, Jens told them he had come alone. They hesitantly invited him in and offered him food and drink while they conversed. Jens later said that Derek spent much of the time outlining their hopes and dreams for Elizabeth and how he was not a part of the plan. Derek bluntly told Jens that he if insisted on seeing his daughter, he would do all he could to get him dismissed from the university.
Jens was offended and stood up abruptly from his chair. Derek too rose from his seat and told Jens, “Sit down, young man” but Jens refused to comply.
Instead, Jens pulled a knife from his pocket and slashed at Derek, cutting him deep on the neck. Nancy, having witnessed the attack on her husband, ran for the kitchen where the phone was to call for help, but Jens brutally attacked her and stabbed her several times, leaving her to bleed to death on the kitchen floor.
Returning to Derek, Jens found his girlfriend’s father back on his feet and ready to defend himself. The two struggled mightily; Jens intending to finish what he started, Derek just trying to survive.
When all was said and done, Derek lay in a pool of blood on the living room floor.
After spending several minutes, cleaning himself and pacing frantically, trying to come to terms with what he had done, Jens headed back to D.C.
Elizabeth had grown weary of waiting for Jens to return. Instead of watching a third movie, she returned to their hotel instead and that is where Jens found her.
The deed was done. Now they could be together forever.
Catch Me If You Can
When their bodies were discovered several days later, the citizens and police of Boonsboro were afraid that the Haysoms’ murders were the work of a crazed madman or of a satanic cult. The couple had no known enemies and since nothing was known to be missing, then robbery gone wrong wasn’t a motive.
They found Elizabeth Haysom and her German boyfriend to be weird; but being weird didn’t make them murderers.
But the more they talked to the them, especially Elizabeth, the more certain they became Elizabeth was responsible for her parents’ murders. And her half-siblings were inclined to believe the same thing after Elizabeth began leading police on a wild goose chase of possible suspects, alleged missing items, and, finally, accusing her mother of sexual molestation.
Realizing the police were closing in on them, Elizabeth and Jens hightailed it to England, where they lived under assumed names. It would seem two murderers had waltzed right out of America and disappeared off the face of the earth.
But Jens and Elizabeth loved to spend money and live lavishly, but now they didn’t have their parents’ money to afford them this luxury.
When they were spotted in a Marks & Spencer department store in the Richmond area of London making exchanges for cash then writing checks for new purchases, all while pretending not to know one another.
Store security was suspicious enough to follow them. The couples’ actions only became more intriguing and eventually an officer was asked to talk with them. During the question about their activities, it was asked if they would consent to a search of their flat. For an inexplicable reason, they agreed.
A search of the apartment uncovered multiple IDs as well as matching driver’s licenses, passports, and birth certificates. But most shocking was the letters Elizabeth had written to Jens wherein they discussed the murder of her parents, albeit in code at times.
London police immediately contacted Lynchburg detectives who, in turn, flew to London to again talk with Elizabeth and Jens. Feeling safe and secure closure to his homeland, and believing he would have diplomatic immunity from being charged in the U.S., Jens confessed to the murders.
But despite what the letters said, he denied Elizabeth had any involvement. Elizabeth, however, realizing that Jens had confessed decided it was time to start talking and confessed to her role in her parents’ slaying.
Elizabeth waved extradition back to the U.S. Jens, alternatively, fought to be deported to Germany. He lost, however, and was returned to Virginia.
Elizabeth pled guilty to a lesser charge of accessory to murder before the fact and was sentenced to 90 years in prison. She will be released in May 2032, when she is 68 years old. For now, Elizabeth can be found at the Fluvanna Correctional Facility in Troy, Virginia.
Jens, back in the U.S., proclaimed his innocence and opted to take his chances with a jury and was found guilty of two counts of murder. The death penalty was not an option since the U.S. had promised not to seek such in exchange for his being returned to Virginia. He was sentenced to two life sentences. Although he became eligible for parole since 2003, his applications for release have been denied.
For several years, still proclaiming his innocence (despite letters still in evidence to the contrary), Jens has asked to serve his time in a German prison. In 2010, the Govenor of Virginia agreed to such for the District Attorney in the county of Jen’s conviction refused to sign off on it and Jens had to stay put. Jens is currently incarcerated at the Buckingham Correctional Facility in Dillwyn, Virginia.
Apparently Jens had trouble being so far away from home, doing time in an American prison. It’s no problem to commit a double homicide here but to pay for it here, well that’s just so hard. [insert eye roll here] But there’s good news, Jens found Jesus in jail and now markets his coping methods to anyone willing to pay $17.95 for the pleasure.
Book and Movie about Elizabeth Haysom and Jens Soering
Ken Englade's 1990 book Beyond Reason chronicles the lives of this deadly duo before and after the murderous violence committed against Derrick and Nancy Haysom. It's a fantastic resource for anyone interesting in learning more of about the people and events of this case.
A 2016 documentary film titled The Promise was released by German filmmakers Marcus Vetter & Karin Steinberger which was created with a great deal of input from Jens Soering, which one should keep in mind when watching it, as can be seen in the following trailer.
© 2016 Kim Bryan
rosalyn on January 13, 2019:
Knowing all the facts that came out now - Jens is innocent of the actual murder - he was railroaded by a habitual liar and a poor judicial system.
Gary Braverfest on December 01, 2018:
Without question Jens committed the murders. That's why he consistently refuses to take a polygraph test. He knows he'll fail! Since his conviction, the mastermind has been sitting in his little cell plotting and plotting. He's made a lot of money with those books, oh, not directly, but don't think he doesn't have access to funds. How else does he afford his legal dream team? His constant campaigning has finally gathered him some momentum, and a movie, and what's this, Martin Sheen? But, he's not innocent. There's no reliable chain of evidence for the DNA that Jens is jumping up and down about. We don't know who had it before it was tested. A few isolated drops (3 or 4) were saved from a virtual sea of blood that the killer smeared all over the first floor of the house and tested 20 years later, but no one can account for where they've been all these years. And we're shocked that it's not Jens' blood? Seriously? The guy did the crime while Elizabeth waited at the hotel. He's a vile manipulator with lots of followers. Jens won't deign to take a polygraph (unprofessional), but he still holds onto the testimony of the mechanic whose timeline has been discredited by everyone involved with the case.
Jedi on November 16, 2018:
I personally do not believe that Jens commited the murders.
I enjoyed reading the article however, thank you Kim
Kim Bryan (author) on September 24, 2016:
Ahh, Jens I see you're still at it. I'm not one who believes the US legal system is always right but we both know it was this time because it's more than just a footprint. It's been 20 years, own it and focus on your healing while serving the time you know you and I both know you deserve.
P. on September 23, 2016:
The facinating fact is, how incorruptible proves are beeing ignored for more than 30 years. I just can hope that no one hows plaming Jens Soering will be codemed just because of a footprint... this is ridiculous.
Suzie from Carson City on April 08, 2016:
Very fascinating. This sounded vaguely familiar as I read it. Apparently I'd read something on this particular case in the past. These 2 were definitely a Toxic Duo.....very troubled young man & woman, spoiled and a bit unstable!
Glad to know they're both locked away where they belong. You did an excellent job on this. Peace. Paula