Review upheaval: Two freelancers quit over new column
The Fluvanna Review's introduction of a new columnist last month spurred one negative letter. Reaction from Review writers, however, was more heated; two of them have quit as a result of the new "Glimpses from Inside" column.
The author is Elizabeth Haysom, better known for her role in killing her parents than for her writing skills– although her love letters to former UVA student and her boyfriend, Jens Soering, helped secure both their convictions.
Soering claims he took the fall for the 1985 stabbing deaths of Derek and Nancy Haysom to protect Elizabeth Haysom, and he's serving a life sentence. Haysom, who pleaded guilty as an accessory, is serving her 90-year-sentence at the Fluvanna Women's Correctional Center in Troy.
Her first column, entitled "The Shakedown," offers a look at the Fluvanna women's prison from the perspective of inmates, says Review publisher Eric Allen. "We hope it brings awareness, promotes volunteerism at the prison, and deters crime," he adds.
Columnist Bill Anderson didn't quite see it that way.
"I just think it's terribly inappropriate," says Anderson, "to be carrying firsthand writing by someone who had her parents murdered."
Anderson did not want his "We the People" column appearing opposite Haysom's. "I did not want people to consider that I'm a peer of a murderer," he says.
Walter Rupar has written for the Review since 1994; he pens a column about veterans called "Those Who Serve." He, too, quit over Haysom.
"I think it's self-evident," says Rupar. "She's a convicted murderer."
At a staff meeting, Anderson says, "There wasn't a soul who agreed with Eric Allen, and he wouldn't budge."
"We're not glorifying her life," says Allen. "Her life is pretty dismal. I think it will deter crime, or at least reinforce negative perceptions about prison life."
Haysom was not paid for her column, and Allen says, "When you read it, you'll probably wonder what all the fuss is about."
In contrast to her post-murder continent-hopping life on the lam, which became the subject of two books and a documentary on CourtTV, Haysom's column describes the biggest action in her life today: when correctional officers "carefully root" through everything an inmate owns. It's called a shakedown "one of the most stressful things in a prisoner's life."
Magazines, paperclips, books, letters, and even bars of soap can all be contraband if the quantity exceeds Department of Corrections policy. Haysom writes that she always has too many book and papers, "because in order to function properly, I must have lots of books and papers."
Not all the feedback from the column has been negative.
Patti Leigh Huffman, the warden at Fluvanna Women's Correctional Center, thinks Haysom's columns are well written and offer "a different perspective."
Inmates like Haysom do not need permission to send out articles, Huffman clarifies. "They don't have to do that ever, bless her heart," she says. "It was just, 'Hey warden, here's what I'm doing.'"
As for the reaction of Fluvanna Review freelancers, Huffman says, "I'm floored."
Haysom, 38, has been denied parole twice. Convicted in 1990 [WRONG DATE– SEE BELOW] back when Virginia still had parole, Haysom is eligible for release in 2032. The former Echols scholar is listed on a website, Women Doing Time, and her bio there says she plans to live in Canada upon her release.
"My dreams are to live a creative and generous life as a Christian, to return to college and obtain a degree in scientific and technical illustration, and then to develop a successful freelance business, to build a unique home with an awesome garden and to travel adventurously," she writes.
Her former beau, German national Jens Soering, is serving his two life sentences at Brunswick Correctional Center in Lawrenceville for the stabbing murders of Derek and Nancy Haysom. Unlike Haysom, who pleaded guilty to her role, Soering has maintained his innocence, blamed his ex-girlfriend, and filed numerous appeals.
His latest petition claimed that the Bedford County judge who heard his case, William Sweeney, should have recused himself because of an alleged friendship with a brother of victim Nancy Haysom. That petition was dismissed in March. Soering is up for parole later this year.
Bill Anderson and Walter Rupar have not severed all ties with Fluvanna Review publisher Allen. Rupar is the editor of More Monthly, which Allen owns, and Anderson is a More contributor.
Warden Huffman does not think the Review's decision to publish Haysom glorifies a murderer. "Whether people want to read her or choose not to, that's a choice we all make," she suggests.