ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding is appealing to Governor Terry McAuliffe for the release of Jens Soering.
Soering was a University of Virginia student who was convicted of a double murder in 1985.
Harding sent a 19-page letter to McAuliffe asking for Soering's release from prison as part of a pardon petition from Soering's attorney, Steve Rosenfield.
A few months ago, Rosenfield asked Harding to review the case of the murders of Bedford County residents Derek and Nancy Haysom, the parents of Soering's ex-girlfriend.
According to a statement from Harding, he has put in more than 200 hours of pro bono work in his investigation of the case. The statement also says this may be the first time in the history of the Commonwealth that an active sheriff has written a letter like this to support a request for pardon.
While he began his investigation under the assumption that Soering was probably guilty of the crime for which he was convicted, Harding writes he believes Soering could not be convicted now based on evidence that has surfaced, was improperly submitted or omitted from the trial.
Harding thinks the evidence appears to support a case for Soering's innocence.
Two retired investigators have also reviewed the case, including former Bedford County Sheriff's investigator Chuck Reid, who was one of the lead investigators in the original case.
Harding's statement says Reid has reached the same conclusion as Harding in his review.
Earlier this year, Virginia officials rejected a parole request, though the pardon request was still being considered at that time.
McAuliffe refused a request to transfer Soering back to Germany, where he is from, in 2015.
Former Governor Tim Kaine, a current U.S. Senator, tried to send Soering back to Germany in 2010 under an agreement that would have kept him in prison for at least two years.
That was revoked by Kaine's gubernatorial successor, former Governor Bob McDonnell.
When Soering was convicted of the first-degree murders, prosecutors relied on testimony from the ex-girlfriend, a blood sample found at the scene that matched Soering's blood type and Soering's confession, which was given during an interrogation in England after he was captured.
Soering says he confessed to the crime in an attempt to save his girlfriend's life and their relationship.
In August last year, Soering's attorney presented DNA evidence, saying it proved Soering did not commit the crime, but that an unidentified man did.
To read Harding's full letter, click on the link in the Related Documents box.