‘Happy and thankful’ – German convicted in US for murder returns home

By dpa correspondents

A German man sentenced to life in prison in the United States for a double murder three decades ago, but then released on parole and deported, returned back home on Tuesday.

“This is the best day of my life,” Jens Soering said after landing in the city of Frankfurt. “I am so happy and thankful.”

Friends and supporters welcomed the 53-year-old at the airport, greeting him with loud cheers and applause.

Soering appeared overwhelmed and said he now will first need some calm. “I have to arrive psychologically and emotionally in Germany,” he said, noting that he had not seen the country in more than 30 years.

Soering was jailed for 33 years, most of them in the US. The son of a German diplomat, he had received two life sentences for the 1985 murder of his then-girlfriend’s parents in the Virginia city of Lynchburg.

Soering had initially confessed to the murders, but later said that he only wanted to protect his girlfriend from the death penalty. He maintains his innocence to this day.

Karoline Ruesch, a lawyer from the city of Wiesbaden, was among those at the airport to welcome Soering. She said he has been her penfriend since 2010.

She had sort of no longer believed in “this miracle,” Ruesch said.

“It is the nicest Christmas for me since I got to know him,” she added.

Petra Hermanns, a spokeswoman for Soering’s supporters, described him as a “very pleasant, charismatic, humorous, intelligent and emphatic person.” She expressed confidence that he will cope with his freedom. He will also receive therapeutic help.

Soering’s supporters had prepared a flat, mobile phone and clothes for him in Germany. He plans to first go on holiday and then travel around the country to visit his supporters.

Soering issued an appeal to the press: “Please give me a little bit of peace to be with my friends and arrive here.”

The Virginia parole board voted in November to release him and turn him over to immigration officials for deportation to Germany. He was not pardoned, however. In Germany, he is a free man, but he is prohibited from ever returning to the US.

Soering and his then-girlfriend Elizabeth Haysom had been arrested in 1986 in Britain, where they had fled after becoming suspects. Britain only agreed to extradite Soering to the US under the condition that he would not face the death penalty.

Haysom was sentenced to two jail terms of 45 years for being an accessory to murder. Her parents’ brutal stabbing death had drawn national and international attention for decades.

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