After a wealthy couple was murdered in Virginia in 1985, their daughter and her boyfriend became the top suspects. Netflix’s new four-part docu-series Till Murder Do Us Part: Soering Vs. Haysom, takes a look at the killings of Derek and Nancy Haysom, and what happened when their daughter Elizabeth and her boyfriend Jens Soehring changed their stories and turned on each other during the subsequent murder trial.
Opening Shot: Archival footage of old news programs reveal that a couple, Derek and Nancy Haysom, were killed in their home. Bloody photos of the grisly crime scene are shown, and a news announcer states that the couple’s daughter Elizabeth and her boyfriend, Jens Soering, are the prime suspects.
The Gist: Derek Haysom was a wealthy executive who worked for a steel company. Born in South Africa, he and his second wife, Nancy, lived in Bedford County, Virginia where they had a sprawling home and led a somewhat extravagant lifestyle. The couple each had children from previous marriages, but they also shared one biological daughter, Elizabeth. In April, 1985, Derek and Nancy were brutally murdered, their throats slit and each of their bodies brutally stabbed dozens of times. With this being the mid-’80s, the Satanic Panic was in full swing,and every aspect of the crime scene was scrutinized with the fear that there were occultish undertones to the murders.
When Elizabeth was questioned about her whereabouts when her parents were killed, she stated that she and her boyfriend Jens Soering were in Washington D.C., but the mileage on their rental car revealed that they drove hundreds of miles out of their way on that trip, which aroused police suspicions. Once Elizabeth and Jens realized they were being investigated and were the prime suspects, they fled the country and lived abroad, committing petty crimes along the way to fund their lives. When they were nabbed for scamming local stores in England, law enforcement there jailed them and once the English police dug into their history, realized they might be dealing with a pair of murderers wanted in the U.S.
Elizabeth was extradited from England more than two years after her parents’ deaths and she confessed to being an accessory to murder, while Jens confessed to carrying out the killings, but the question that remains throughout the series is why did they do it? While much of the series focuses on their dysfunctional, codependent relationship, eventually it flips to a new question of whether or not it was Elizabeth, and not Jens, who actually wielded the knife.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? I’m always a fan of true crime documentaries and series where the criminals themselves speak on the record. Even if you’re not quite sure you can trust them, it’s fascinating that they’re willing to rehash the crimes they’re accused of, especially if the crimes are the murders of their family members. In that respect, Till Murder Do Us Part reminds me of Hulu’s The Menendez Murders: Erik Tells All and Netflix’s American Murder: The Family Next Door.
Our Take: Jens Soehring spent more than thirty years in prison for the Haysom murders. Now a free man, he appears in the docu-series to offer his side of what happened before and after the killings, and now maintains that, despite his confession, Elizabeth was always the actual mastermind of the crimes. But over the course of these four episodes, we’re led to believe that both he and Elizabeth were clever manipulators who were both prone to anger, and our loyalties and opinions about them are meant to toggle back and forth. Every time we think we understand some aspect of the case, the series changes course. First, Jens acted alone. Then Elizabeth made him do it, and then broke up with him after he confessed and she deemed he was no longer useful to her. Then there’s even the suggestion that she killed her parents in a drug-fueled rage.
While Jens speaks openly throughout the show, don’t hold your breath for Elizabeth to appear, she doesn’t. It makes sense that she wouldn’t considering that Jens is now holding her completely responsible for the killings, but it also could have offered her a chance to defend herself. The show’s “supporting cast” if you will, all the officers, journalists, and detectives who worked on and lived through the case, are crucial to the way the story is told and add to the effective storytelling presented here. These people were all incredibly close to the case for many years, and getting the facts straight is as much a reflection on them as it is to our enjoyment of the show. As with many true crime documentaries, there are twists that you never saw coming and an unsettling feeling that we’ll never know all the facts. Despite the lack of real closure, Till Murder Do Us Part is fascinating and tragic all the same.
Sex and Skin: Some references to Elizabeth and Jens having sex, but nothing graphic.
Parting Shot: In grainy video footage from Elizabeth’s trial she is asked “Why did your parents die?” Then, each of the detectives involved in the case, in present day, asks, “Why?” and we’re left on that cliffhanger. We know WHO committed these crimes, now we just need to understand the motive behind them.
Memorable Dialogue: There are several references to Elizabeth’s looks (short, spiky hair, a punk look, or perhaps it was lesbian-chic?) and to Satan and voo-doo throughout this first episode that allude to the fact that Elizabeth was stifled by her parents lifestyle or even into the occult. (“Would it be possible to hypnotize my parents? Do voo-doo on them? Will them to death?” she once wrote in a letter to Jens.) Was she a devil worshiper? Simply spitballing ideas with her boyfriend? The episode sets up plenty for us to speculate about, but doesn’t reveal all just yet.
Our Call: STREAM IT! The story behind Till Murder Do Us Part has taken nearly 40 years to tell, and in that time, it has been revised and edited (mostly by Soehring). Despite the fact that we’ll never be sure what really happened between Soehring, Elizabeth, and her parents, the series is solid true-crime binge.