BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) At his desk inside the Bedford County Sheriff's Office, Major RIcky Gardner looks through copies of old evidence from his investigation of the Haysom murders.
"It's been a significant part of my professional career, like it or not, and I haven't liked a lot of it," Gardner said of the investigation.
Gardner had been a deputy for six years when he was called to investigate the deaths of Derek and Nancy Haysom in 1985. Thirty-five years later he's the only one still employed by his department who worked the crime scene.
"I'm basically the last man standing, if you would, to defend the case," Gardner told WDBJ7 Tuesday.
Defending the case is something he's often asked to do, especially in recent years as Jens Soering, the man convicted of killing the Haysoms, made an aggressive push to prove his innocence. Dozens lined up to support Soering's claims, from celebrity authors like John Grisham to law enforcement officers like Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding; many of them questioning Gardner's work.
"Over the years it's been hard not to come out and defend the case," Gardner said. "I've been accused of withholding evidence. (Former prosecutor and current judge) Updike and I have been accused of burying evidence during the trial. That was tough to swallow. The parole board investigators looked at all of those accusations and disproved every one of them."
Last week Virginia's parole board agreed to release Jens Soering and his co-defendant Elizabeth Haysom after three decades in custody.
"I am disappointed," Gardner said, adding that he accepts the parole board's decision and appreciates the years of work they put into researching the Haysom murders and Soering's claims.
"They were more intense with their investigation than maybe we were at trial," said Gardner.
Most gratifying to Gardner is the fact that the parole board denied Soering's request for a pardon.
"Which validates what the jury said back in 1990, that he was guilty," Gardner said.
With that decision Gardner says he hopes, after 35 years, he can finally put away the Haysom case files for good.
"As far as I'm concerned, this is in the rearview mirror," said Gardner. "He is going to go back to Germany, she's going to go back to Canada, and that will be the end of it."
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