April 10, 2013

Rockefeller impostor convicted of cold-case murder

Christian Gerhartsreiter is found guilty 28 years after newlyweds John and Linda Sohus disappeared.

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Christian Gerhartsreiter is led away by a Sheriff's deputy in a Los Angeles Superior Courtroom after a jury delivered a guilty verdict on April 10, 2013 in Los Angeles. The jury found Gerhartsreiter guilty in the death of a California man nearly three decades ago. The verdict was reached Wednesday after the jury deliberated about a day. Testimony in the cold-case trial of Gerhartsreiter focused on the discovery of the bones of John Sohus long after he and his wife disappeared from his mother’s home in San Marino, a wealthy Los Angeles suburb. The defendant, a German immigrant with delusions of grandeur, rented a cottage at the Sohus home in 1985 then disappeared about the same time as Sohus and his wife Linda who was never found. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Al Seib)

click image to enlarge

Ellen Sohus sister of murder victim John Sohus talks during a news conference after a jury found Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter guilty of first-degree murder in the 1985 San Marino killing on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 in Los Angeles. The verdict was reached Wednesday after the jury deliberated about a day. Testimony in the cold-case trial of Gerhartsreiter focused on the discovery of the bones of John Sohus long after he and his wife disappeared from his mother’s home in San Marino, a wealthy Los Angeles suburb. The defendant, a German immigrant with delusions of grandeur, rented a cottage at the Sohus home in 1985 then disappeared about the same time as Sohus and his wife Linda who was never found. (AP Photo/San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Walter Mancini)

A friend said Linda Sohus once described the tenant in the cottage as creepy and said she and her husband never spoke to him.

Residents didn't connect Gerhartsreiter with the 1985 disappearance of the Sohus couple. He vanished soon after they did.

No trace of Linda Sohus has ever been found, but the bones of John Sohus were unearthed during excavation of a swimming pool at the San Marino property in 1994. With no clues, the mystery went cold again.

Across the country, a man variously known as Chris Crowe, Chip Smith and Clark Rockefeller was inventing new lives for himself.

This impostor wormed his way into high society and talked his way into important jobs. He married a wealthy woman and controlled her funds, but his identity unraveled when he kidnapped their daughter during a custody dispute.

His wife testified that he became increasingly paranoid when police begin inquiring about him.

When he was finally unmasked, he became the subject of magazine articles, true crime books and TV movies that sought to explore his bizarre story and get to the heart of the man behind the pseudonyms.

The resulting publicity led California authorities to revisit the Sohus disappearance. They realized the man in custody in Boston was not an heir to the Rockefeller fortune but was the man who had lived in San Marino decades ago.

Already serving time for the kidnapping of his young daughter in a Boston custody dispute, Gerhartsreiter was close to the end of his sentence and headed for freedom when he was charged with murder.

Defense attorneys suggested that Linda Sohus, not their client, killed her husband, but no evidence was provided to prove that theory.

And no motive for the killing was provided by prosecutors as they made their case against Gerhartsreiter.

It's unlikely that some details will ever be explained.

Gerhartsreiter chose not to testify in his own defense and much of the trial testimony came from people who only knew him long ago in San Marino as Chris Chichester, a stranger with a murky past.

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)