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Small Town Big Crime

A beloved couple brutally murdered in their home. Their daughter's boyfriend, Jens Soering, confessed to the crime and was sentenced to life in prison. But decades later, DNA evidence tells a different story. So who really killed Derek and Nancy Haysom and why?

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A beloved couple brutally murdered in their home. Their daughter's boyfriend, Jens Soering, confessed to the crime and was sentenced to life in prison. But decades later, DNA evidence tells a different story. So who really killed Derek and Nancy Haysom and why?

Introducing Small Town Big Crime

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In 1985 Derek and Nancy Haysom were brutally murdered in Bedford County, Virginia. Their daughter Elizabeth, a University of Virginia student, and her then-boyfriend, Jens Soering, the son of a German diplomat who was also attending UVA, were convicted of the crime in 1990 after the pair were apprehended in Europe and Soering confessed. He recanted almost immediately and insists he offered a false confession to protect Elizabeth. More recently tested DNA evidence supports his claim of innocence. It suggests two unidentified males were present at the crime scene.  Despite international pressure, Bedford officials refuse to reopen the case. Now three investigative journalists are sifting through the evidence and tracking down the key players in an effort to find the truth about who really killed Derek and Nancy Haysom. 


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Nov 18 2019

2mins

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Free at Last

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The announcement this week that Jens Soering and Elizabeth Haysom had been granted parole after spending 33 years in prison sent shockwaves across the world and surprised even Soering's staunchest supporters. This bonus episode features the phone call where Jason Flom and Amanda Knox learned of Soering's release, and reaction from a local sheriff who says he still firmly believes the murder investigation of Derek and Nancy Haysom should be reopened.

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Nov 28 2019

3mins

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The Crime Scene

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It was the bloodiest crime scene investigators in Bedford County had ever seen. Derek and Nancy Haysom were stabbed more than thirty times in their own home. There was plenty of forensic evidence to collect, but detectives had few leads. After months of dead ends in the investigation, the couples' youngest daughter, Elizabeth, aroused suspicions with her strange behavior. When detectives started questioning her and her boyfriend, Jens Soering, the young lovers fled the country. 

To support the investigative efforts of Small Town Big Crime, please visit https://www.patreon.com/SmallTownBigCrime

Written and Reported by Rachel Ryan and Courteney Stuart
Sound production by Jaclyn Piermarini
Sound engineering by Taylor Thomas

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Dec 17 2019

20mins

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The Trial

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In 1985 Jens Soering and Elizabeth Haysom were bright, promising students at the University of Virginia when Haysom's parents were found brutally murdered in their Bedford County home. The young couple became the prime suspects in the crime and fled the country. They were arrested in London several months later, and British detectives found some disturbing letters. Haysom pleaded guilty to being an accessory before the fact in her parents' murders and testified against Soering, saying he committed the murders because her parents didn't approve of their relationship. Forensic evidence presented at the trial sealed Soering's fate, and he was sentenced to two life sentences for the murders. But not everyone was convinced Soering could have committed the crimes.

To support the investigative efforts of Small Town Big Crime, please visit https://www.patreon.com/SmallTownBigCrime

Written and Reported by Rachel Ryan and Courteney Stuart
Sound production by Jaclyn Piermarini
Sound engineering by Taylor Thomas

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Dec 24 2019

23mins

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Jens' Story

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The weekend Derek and Nancy Haysom were brutally murdered in their home in Bedford County, their youngest daughter Elizabeth and her boyfriend, Jens Soering, had rented a car and driven to Washington, DC. After the killings, Elizabeth maintained Jens drove the 200 miles from Washington to Bedford County to confront her parents about their disapproval of their relationship and ended up stabbing them to death. But Jens has a very different story to tell. From behind bars at the Buckingham Correctional Center in Virginia, Jens gives his version of events that night in March 1985 and the days and months after the crime. He explains why he falsely confessed to murdering the Haysoms and how a DNA discovery supports his innocence. An attorney working pro bono for Jens discusses his 1990 trial in Bedford and several issues related to the Haysom murder investigation.

To support the investigative efforts of Small Town Big Crime, please visit https://www.patreon.com/SmallTownBigCrime

Written and Reported by Rachel Ryan and Courteney Stuart
Sound production by Jaclyn Piermarini
Sound engineering by Taylor Thomas

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Dec 31 2019

26mins

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The Blood

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Type O Blood was found at the crime scene and was an important piece of evidence in convicting Jens Soering in the 1985 murders of Derek and Nancy Haysom.  But newly tested DNA evidence suggests Soering wasn't at the crime scene, and the Type O blood belonged to an unidentified male. More testing revealed a second unknown male left blood at the scene. DNA experts don't believe Soering could have been at the Haysoms' home when they were murdered. A small town sheriff named Chip Harding starts investigating and finds additional evidence that provides clues to who may have killed the Haysoms. A music mogul in New York City named Jason Flom advocates for Soering's innocence.

To support the investigative efforts of Small Town Big Crime, please visit https://www.patreon.com/SmallTownBigCrime

Written and Reported by Rachel Ryan and Courteney Stuart
Sound production by Jaclyn Piermarini
Sound engineering by Taylor Thomas

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Jan 14 2020

21mins

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The Motive

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Officials in Bedford County are convinced that Jens Soering is guilty of brutally murdering Derek and Nancy Haysom in their home in 1985, even though new DNA testing suggests two unidentified men were at the crime scene. The refusal of the Bedford County Sheriff's Office to reopen the case and test additional evidence for DNA has frustrated many people, including a former lead investigator in the Haysom murders. Elizabeth Haysom has kept largely quiet since her conviction of accessory to murder before the fact in her parents murders in 1987. However, she did speak out after the new DNA revelations in 2016 and doubled down on her claims that her boyfriend, Jens, killed her parents. She told a newspaper reporter that suffering years of sexual abuse was the reason she wanted her parents her dead.  Amanda Knox, the foreign exchange student who spent four years in an Italian prison for murdering her roommate before having her conviction overturned, dedicated a season of her podcast, The Truth About True Crime, to the Haysom murders. She weighs in on the case and talks about her connection to Elizabeth and Jens.

To support the investigative efforts of Small Town Big Crime, please visit https://www.patreon.com/SmallTownBigCrime
Written and Reported by Rachel Ryan and Courteney Stuart
Sound production by Jaclyn Piermarini
Sound engineering by Taylor Thomas

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Jan 21 2020

22mins

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The Two Men

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Jens Soering and Elizabeth Haysom were granted parole in November of 2019 after serving more than three decades in prison. But the parole board also ruled that Soering’s claims of innocence are without merit, and he was denied a pardon by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. In the eyes of the law, Jens Soering murdered Derek and Nancy Haysom, and officials in Bedford County maintain the case is closed. But the parole board investigation was done in secret so it’s unknown if any additional DNA testing was done of crime scene evidence. That leaves some unanswered questions, like who are the two men who left blood at the crime scene? Retired Charlottesville detective Richard Hudson has reviewed the case and wonders if the Haysom murders could be tied to a gruesome stabbing murder that took place not far from the Haysoms' home within days of their murders. Two men were convicted of that crime. Those two men, Robert Albright and William Shifflett, also had a suspicious encounter with a Bedford deputy within days of the Haysom murders. There are others who may have information about the murders including an auto shop owner in Bedford who says he had an encounter with Elizabeth when she and an unidentified man retrieved a car from his shop that was covered in blood.  There’s also Elizabeth's roommate at the University of Virginia who helped her write an alibi in the days after the murders.  And a volunteer from the homeless shelter where Albright and Shifflett stayed in the days after the brutal stabbing reveals the two men made some troubling comments about killing three people, not one. Hawes Spencer, a journalist who has done years of in depth reporting on the Haysom murders, weighs in on the parole announcement and lack of transparency in the case.

To support the investigative efforts of Small Town Big Crime, please visit https://www.patreon.com/SmallTownBigCrime

This episode was updated on June 24, 2020 to reflect the auto shop owner in Bedford did not identify Jim Farmer in a picture.

Written and Reported by Rachel Ryan and Courteney Stuart
Sound production by Jaclyn Piermarini
Sound engineering by Taylor Thomas

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Jan 28 2020

24mins

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The Witness

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The night after brutally stabbing a homeless man in Roanoke, Virginia in 1985, William Shifflett and Robert Albright checked into a nearby emergency shelter called the RAFT. In 2018, a volunteer from the RAFT wrote a letter to the Virginia governor and to one of the original investigators in the Haysom murders stating she believed Jens Soering was wrongfully convicted. She cited incriminating conversations volunteers at the shelter overheard between Shifflett and Albright including reference to a "rich bitch" who'd refused to pay. She has refused all interviews since writing those letters until now. For the first time, that volunteer, Sandra Thornton, talks publicly about the night the two men checked into the RAFT.

To support the investigative efforts of Small Town Big Crime, please visit https://www.patreon.com/SmallTownBigCrime

Written and Reported by Rachel Ryan and Courteney Stuart
Hosted and Sound production by Jaclyn Piermarini
Sound engineering by Taylor Thomas

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Jun 30 2020

23mins

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The Son

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With new DNA evidence showing two unidentified men bled at the Haysom crime scene, our focus turns to the two so-called "drifters" who were convicted of a separate fatal stabbing that happened a week after the Haysom murders. Who were these men, and could they have been involved? We track them down to a Virginia prison, where they had both been sent to serve life sentences, and we find another surprising source: William Shifflett's son. He has plenty to say about his father, who he says was anything but a drifter.

To support the investigative efforts of Small Town Big Crime, please visit https://www.patreon.com/SmallTownBigCrime

Written and reported by Rachel Ryan and Courteney Stuart
Hosted and sound production by Jaclyn Piermarini
Sound editing by Taylor Thomas

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Jun 30 2020

24mins

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The DNA

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The son of one of "the drifters", William Shifflett, shares his father had type O blood. The DNA evidence revealed in 2009 suggested two unidentified men may have bled at the crime scene. One of those men had type O blood, according to experts. Could it be a match? With Bedford County officials refusing to retest crime scene evidence, the investigation has remained at a stalemate. But a new path to DNA testing is forged through the Small Town Big Crime investigation. 

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Jul 07 2020

21mins

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The Reckoning

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After years of speculation that "the drifters," William Shifflett and Robert Albright, were the real killers of Derek and Nancy Haysom, the results of a DNA test shed new light. In Germany, Jens Soering reacts to the results of that DNA test, and retired law enforcement investigators suggest next steps. Shifflett's son Will is confronted over evidence that he's lied about Elizabeth Haysom.

To support the investigative efforts of Small Town Big Crime, please visit https://www.patreon.com/SmallTownBigCrime

Writing and reporting by Rachel Ryan and Courteney Stuart
Hosting and sound editing by Jaclyn Piermarini
Sound effects editing by Taylor Thomas

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Jul 14 2020

22mins

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Elizabeth

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Elizabeth Haysom's cousin and closest confidante describes how Elizabeth evolved over the years and shares an update on her new life in Canada. A forensic psychologist who examined Elizabeth for her parole hearing offers new details about her troubled childhood and gives a professional assessment of her current mental state.

To support the investigative efforts of Small Town Big Crime, please visit our Patreon page

Writing and reporting by Rachel Ryan and Courteney Stuart
Hosting and sound editing by Jaclyn Piermarini
Sound production by Taylor Thomas

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Oct 13 2020

20mins

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The Love Story

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Jens Soering and Elizabeth Haysom exchanged flowery love letters in the early months of their relationship but their writings also contained dark and violent fantasies that hinted at murder. Three decades later we re-examine those letters and compare their words then with what they are saying now. As Jens and Elizabeth begin new lives decades later and an ocean apart, they can't escape the crime that changed the course of both of their lives.

To support the investigative efforts of Small Town Big Crime, please visit our Patreon page.

Writing and reporting by Rachel Ryan and Courteney Stuart
Hosting and sound editing by Jaclyn Piermarini
Sound effects editing by Taylor Thomas

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Oct 13 2020

21mins

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The Other Suspects

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Our investigation into the murders of Derek and Nancy Haysom has already eliminated one alternate suspect through DNA testing. Now we turn our sights on the other possible suspects who may have bled at the crime scene. New DNA evidence provides answers that have eluded investigators for decades. The commonwealth's attorney in Bedford County defends the decision not to conduct additional testing on crime scene evidence. A DNA expert offers an alternate theory on the DNA.

To support the investigative efforts of Small Town Big Crime, please visit our Patreon page.

Writing and reporting by Rachel Ryan and Courteney Stuart
Hosting and sound editing by Jaclyn Piermarini
Sound effects editing by Taylor Thomas


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Oct 13 2020

29mins

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The Confession

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Just as we think our investigation has reached a dead end, a Facebook message prompts new questions about Jens Soering's claims of innocence. A report by one of the British detectives who interrogated Jens in 1986 cites evidence that Jens' has been lying for 30 years.  Thanks to our friend and fellow podcaster, Allison Melody, the host of Food Heals, we hear from a former  Bedford deputy who has never spoken publicly about the Haysom murders.

To support the investigative efforts of Small Town Big Crime, please visit our Patreon page

Writing and reporting by Rachel Ryan and Courteney Stuart
Hosting and sound editing by Jaclyn Piermarini
Sound effects editing by Taylor Thomas

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Oct 20 2020

36mins

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The Battle Lines

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We ask Jens Soering and his attorney to respond to discrepancies between his 1986 confession and what he told us last year. We trace the web of Soering's support to see how each influential person was brought in and became convinced of his innocence.  The DNA experts and investigators who reviewed the case for Soering, respond to the alternate explanation about the unidentified DNA.

To support the investigative efforts of Small Town Big Crime, please visit our Patreon page

Writing and reporting by Rachel Ryan and Courteney Stuart
Hosting and sound editing by Jaclyn Piermarini
Sound effects editing by Taylor Thomas

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Oct 27 2020

21mins

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The Return of Small Town Big Crime

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If Jens Soering didn't kill Derek and Nancy Haysom, who did? That's the question we've been trying to answer for the past three years. Our investigation eliminated three alternate possible suspects in the case, but  our pursuit of the truth was far from over. Three new episodes drop June 28.   Follow us on social media @Small_Town_Big_Crime for updates and special content.

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Jun 22 2022

2mins

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The Pursuit

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Jens Soering’s team has been calling for new DNA testing on crime scene evidence for years but claims Bedford County officials are stonewalling. After Rachel and Courteney meet with the man who could reopen the case and order new testing, Bedford’s top prosecutor Wes Nance, he gives them a challenge: find a lab on the cutting edge of DNA science and see if new testing technology can provide answers in the case. A path to DNA testing opens. 

A special thanks to Bruce Williamson for his legal assistance.
Sound production by Taylor Thomas

To support the investigative efforts of Small Town Big Crime, please visit https://www.patreon.com/SmallTownBigCrime


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Jun 28 2022

29mins

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The Investigation

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As they wait for the Bedford County Circuit Court to respond to their petitions for new DNA testing in the Haysom case, Rachel and Courteney use a new law to gain access to the never-before-seen investigative files. Thousands of pages of notes and other documents reveal how investigators eliminated early suspects and honed in on Jens and Elizabeth. The court responds to the petitions, and the push for DNA testing takes a twist.

To support the investigative efforts of Small Town Big Crime and to hear a bonus episode and other exclusive content, please visit https://www.patreon.com/SmallTownBigCrime

Sound production by Taylor Thomas

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Jun 28 2022

26mins

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iTunes Ratings

93 Ratings
Average Ratings
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Lkclaytor

By lkclaytor - Jan 18 2020
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Well written , holds my attention and creates a true path of discovery about the case.

Very well done

By JanisJaquith - Dec 19 2019
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I’ll be sure to listen to future podcasts.