Former UVA student Jens Soering has spent more than 30 years in prison while protesting his innocence. And Tim Kaine, shortly before he left the Governor’s Mansion in 2010, agreed to repatriate Soering to Germany, a move that was immediately overturned by his successor, Bob McDonnell.
Now Kaine has been tapped to be the Democratic vice presidential candidate, and Soering is still in prison–and still claiming his innocence in the heinous murders of his then-girlfriend Elizabeth Haysom’s parents in 1985 in Bedford. His story, which has gained international attention, was made into a documentary that premiered in Munich last month.
Because of the notoriety of the murders, Kaine experienced some fallout from his decision to send Soering back to Germany, but not enough to derail his run for the U.S. Senate in 2012. But according to Soering’s lawyer, Steve Rosenfield, the then-governor was doing what Congress and the president wanted him to do when they created an international treaty for the transfer of prisoners in 1977 to aid in rehabilitation and to save money.
“Tim Kaine spent nine months investigating the case,” and Rosenfield calls it “very commendable” that he did so. “McDonnell and [Ken] Cuccinelli had a press conference and did no investigation,” he says. “For them it was all politics.”
Soering has advocates at the highest levels of German government, and Chancellor Angela Merkel broached the topic with President Barack Obama in 2014. The position of the Germans, says Rosenfield, “always has been Jens should be returned to Germany under international treaty.”
Governor Terry McAuliffe rejected a petition to do so last year. But with Kaine running for vice president, and a documentary headed to the U.S., Soering’s story is unlikely to go unnoticed.