Entries in Christian Gerhartsreiter (1)


Preliminary Hearing for 'Rockefeller' Con Artist Begins in California

John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(SAN MARINO, Calif.) -- For more than 25 years he had five identities, becoming a world-class con artist across high-class society.

He was a physicist, an art collector, a ship captain and a financial advisor. The German immigrant even went by Clark Rockefeller, claiming to be an heir to the Rockefeller fortune.

Christian Gerhartsreiter, his true identity, showed up Wednesday in California for his preliminary hearing as a thin white male with glasses handcuffed in a blue jumpsuit. He is accused of murdering the son of his former landlady, John Sohus, in the mid-1980s.

Lawyers Wednesday asked Superior Court Judge Jared Moses if Gerhartsreiter could be called Clark Rockefeller throughout the trial. The judge responded a bit shocked, ruling Gerhartsreiter must be called by his real name.

The hearing is expected to last around 6 to 8 days where prosecutors will try to convince Superior Court Judge Jared Moses there is enough evidence showing Gerhartsreiter is responsible for the death of Sohus.

In the early 1980s, Gerhartsreiter was living as one of his pseudonyms: Christopher Chichester.

Posing as English royalty and claiming to be involved in the film industry, Gerhartsreiter settled down in a guest house in the small wealthy town of San Marino, Calif.

During the time of Gerhartsreiter’s stay in 1985, the landlady’s son and daughter, John and Linda Sohus, vanished. Gerhartsreiter was also nowhere to be found.

Not until 1994 would police come across a lead in Sohus’ disappearance.

A new home owner in San Marino had discovered skeletal remains in the backyard of the house while building a pool.

Authorities confirmed for the first time last year that the skeletal bones were that of John Sohus. The premature technology of DNA testing during that time and the fact Sohus was an adopted child delayed the definitive identity of the bones.

That modern technology has brought prosecutors their key witnesses in the preliminary hearing Wednesday, including Sohus’s sister, who provided the DNA to identify the bones.

Sohus’s sister, Lori Moltz, testified she had given police a DNA cheek swab that confirmed the skeletal remains were that of Sohus. While Moltz admitted she had no idea she had a brother, she was able to verify her mother’s handwriting on his birth certificate.

Prosecutors say Gerhartsreiter eluded police for years by moving to Boston and New York. Gerhartsreiter made his way among the elite, marrying a woman with whom he had a daughter. The couple divorced when she found out his true identity.

Last year, Gerhartsreiter was convicted of kidnapping his daughter in Boston during a custody dispute. He is now serving a four- to five-year prison sentence, and would be eligible for parole this year if not awaiting trial on a murder charge.

If convicted in the murder of John Sohus, Gerhartsreiter could face 26 years to life in prison.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio