Local podcast investigates DNA evidence in Haysom murders, Jens Soering case
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A local podcast, started by three former CBS19 News journalists, examines the 1985 murder of Derek and Nancy Haysom in their Bedford County home.
Rachel Ryan, Courteney Stuart and Jaclyn Piermarini teamed up to create the podcast called, "Small Town Big Crime." It was released on Dec. 17, 2019, the same day Jens Soering was released back to Germany on parole.
Soering was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Derek and Nancy Haysom. He confessed to the crime, but later said he gave a false confession to protect Elizabeth Haysom. Elizabeth pleaded guilty to being an accessory before the fact in the murders of her parents.
Ryan said they chose the Haysom murders and the Soering case because of the questions that still needed to be answered with the evidence left at the crime scene.
"There were still a lot of unanswered questions, so we'd figured that we would take a fresh look at it with a fresh set of eyes," Ryan said.
Stuart said new DNA tests in 2009 showed that the blood found in the crime scene did not match Soering. Investigators also said two unidentified people bled at the crime scene. Ryan said they are starting to go through a list of suspects.
"We are trying to work our way through them and we feel like we started with the drifters: William Shifflett and Robert Albright," she said.
Stuart said Shifflett and Albright, also known as "the drifters," were alternate suspects presented by Soering's legal team. These two men were also convicted of a crime less than a week after the Haysoms were murdered.
"They were convicted of another brutal stabbing in Roanoke that happened about a week after the Haysom murders," Stuart said. "Which is partly why they were, and actually a large part of why they were, considered possible suspects in the Haysom murders. So they were convicted in that crime and had been sentenced to life in prison."
Stuart said both men were sent to Greensville Correctional Center in Petersburg to serve their life sentences. She also said Soering's legal team tried to push Bedford authorities to compare their DNA to the blood found at the crime scene, but they refused.
However, Stuart said she still wanted to find out if Shifflett and Albright had any involvement in the case.
"We went down to the Greensville Correctional Center and we found out that one of those two men, William Shifflett, had died. The other one wouldn't talk to us, but William Shifflett's son was willing to speak with us," she said.
Shifflett's son agreed to let the team test his father's DNA from his autopsy to compare it to the evidence found at the crime scene. Stuart said this test shed some new light on the case.
"The DNA that we were able to test against the crime scene blood evidence did not match William Shifflett's," Stuart said. "While that may not be entirely conclusive about all of the evidence that has been tested at the scene, it did show that he was not the source of the blood that was available for comparison."
Stuart said Albright also agreed to have his DNA tested and they're in the process of getting those results.
Richard Hudson, a former detective with the Charlottesville Police Department, said he's thankful for this team's work to try and find the truth in this case.
"We're trying to figure out who could've been there, what could've happened and see if we can get a DNA sample from that perspective," Hudson said. "They've done an amazing job."
Stuart said they also connected with Elizabeth's 81-year-old cousin, who was one of her closest confidantes and has been visiting her for the past 35 years. She will help the podcast team give Elizabeth's side of the story.
Stuart expects to drop new podcast episodes in August. To learn more about their podcast, click here.