Entries in Clark Rockefeller (4)


Clark Rockefeller Impostor Found Guilty of 1985 Murder

JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- A German conman, who became infamous for posing as a Rockefeller, was found guilty Wednesday of murder in the decades-old killing of a California man.

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, 52, who has lived for years under the name Clark Rockefeller and claimed to be an heir to the famed family fortune, was charged with first degree murder in the 1985 killing of John Sohus, the 27-year-old son of his former landlady.

Before reaching a verdict, a Los Angeles jury made up of six men and six women, spent about a day deliberating whether Gerhartsreiter killed Sohus and buried his remains in the backyard of Sohus' mother's San Marino, Calif., home.

Gerhartsreiter was a tenant in the Sohus' guest house at the time of the murder.

Although Deputy District Attorney Habib Balian acknowledged in his closing arguments Monday that he presented no witnesses, no physical evidence and no motive to connect Gerhartsreiter to the murder, he spent the last three weeks arguing that circumstantial evidence was enough to convict Gerhartsreiter of the crime.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Denner had argued that while his client lied about his life and made up lavish stories, he was not a murderer. The defense also argued that it is possible that Sohus' wife, Linda Sohus, who disappeared in 1985, killed her husband. No trace of Linda has ever been found.

Gerhartsreiter, who chose not testify in his own defense, could face up to 26 years to life in prison.

The conman spent decades under different aliases and was serving a five-year sentence in Massachusetts after being convicted in 2009 of kidnapping his 7-year-old daughter when he was extradited to California to stand trial for the Sohus murder.

He has a storied past full of bizarre twists. After arriving in the United States in 1978 at age 17, Gerhartsreiter, originally of Siegsdorf, Germany, took on several identities to charm his way into American high society circles, according to court documents. After being granted a green card in 1981, Gerhartsreiter went on to claim to be a cardiologist, a Hollywood producer and a Wall Street venture capitalist. He also boasted he was a physicist, an art collector, a ship captain and a distant descendent of British royalty.

In 1985, prosecutors argued, Gerhartsreiter was using the name Christopher Chichester and was living in John Sohus' mother's guest house in San Marino. During his stay, John Sohus and his new wife Linda told friends they were going to New York on a trip, but never returned. Then Chichester also vanished.

In May 1994, about a decade after the Sohus' disappearance, the new owner of the Sohus' family home discovered skeletal remains in the backyard while digging a swimming pool. By then, Gerhartsreiter was living in New York and using the name Clark Rockefeller.

Two years ago, in 2011, authorities confirmed for the first time the bones belonged to John Sohus, using DNA provided by his sister, Lori Moltz. The premature technology of DNA testing back in the 1990s and the fact that Sohus was adopted as a child had delayed the definitive identity of the remains.


Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


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


'Clark Rockefeller' Pleads Not Guilty in LA on 1985 Murder

Boston Police via Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- The imposter who called himself "Clark Rockefeller" entered a not guilty plea Friday in a packed Los Angeles courtroom on a murder rap dating back to 1985, when he is accused of killing his landlady's son and burying his dismembered body in the backyard.

Christian Gerhartsreiter, 50, a native of Germany, has been in prison in Massachusetts since 2009, when he was found guilty of abducting Reigh "Snooks" Boss -- his daughter by Sandra Boss, who he married under his fake identity.

The kidnapping investigation led California authorities to look at Gerhartsreiter in connection with a cold case in San Marino, Calif., where John Sohus' remains were found in 1994 in the backyard of his home during excavation for a swimming pool. He had died from blunt force trauma to his head, officials said.

Gerhartsreiter, then using the alias Christopher Chichester, had lived in the mid-1980s in a guest house on the property, which belonged to Sohus' mother, Didi. Neither Sohus nor his wife, Linda, had been seen since 1985, and Linda's whereabouts remain a mystery.

Chichester and Clark Rockefeller were only two of Gerthartsreiter's fake identities. He also posed as an Ivy Leaguer, a cardiologist, a Hollywood producer and actually was a successful bond broker on Wall Street in the years after he left San Marino.

He lost that job and later moved to Boston, where he hung out in a Starbucks and was working on a TV sitcom called, "Less Than Proper" -- and told people he was the inspiration for the character of Niles Crane in the TV show "Frasier," Seal said.

That's where he met Sandra Boss, Reigh's mother, an executive who graduated from Harvard Business School. After they split and Boss and Reigh moved to London, he abducted his daughter, then 7, during a visit in Boston in 2008.

He was convicted in 2009 on the kidnapping charge and was sentenced to four to five years, with a year's credit for time served, according to a spokesman for the Suffolk County district attorney.

Now, the stakes are much higher: He could face 26 years in prison. Judge Carlos Uranga ordered Gerhartsreiter to return Aug. 16 for another hearing.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles County sheriff, Steve Whitmore, said Gerthartsreiter is being held on $10 million bail at an undisclosed jail.

"Because of his notoriety, we want to be safe and sure with this individual," he said. "We're acting with an abundance of caution."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fake Rockefeller Charged in 1985 Murder

Boston Police/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- A con man who posed as a Rockefeller, a rocket scientist and a heart surgeon to ingratiate himself with the wealthy was charged Tuesday with murder in the 1985 killing of a California man.

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, 50, a German immigrant who used the name Clark Rockefeller and claimed to be a member of the famed family, was charged in Los Angeles with murdering a San Marino man whose body was discovered a decade after he disappeared.

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Habib Balian filed the complaint Tuesday morning in Alhambra Superior Court, asking that Gerhartsreiter be extradited from Massachusetts, where he is in prison for kidnapping.

Gerhartsreiter was convicted in June 2009 of absconding with his seven-year-old daughter during a supervised visit and assaulting a social worker with a dangerous weapon when the man tried to protect the little girl.

In the new charge, Gerhartsreiter is accused of murdering John Sohus, 27, who was last seen in early 1985.

At the time, Gerhartsreiter, then calling himself Christopher Chichester, was living in the Sohus family guest house at their San Marino home, police said. Shortly after John Sohus disappeared, so did Chichester.

In May 1994, a body was discovered buried in the backyard of the Sohus home, and the remains were later identified as those of John Sohus. An investigation determined he was killed by blunt force trauma to the head.

Balian will ask that bail be set at $10 million for Gerhartsreiter when he is arraigned, according to a statement from the prosecutor's office.

Gerhartsreiter faces 26 years to life in prison if he is convicted.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio