Rockefeller impostor gets 27 years to life in California murder

CNN
Friday, August 16, 2013 - 9:00pm

 A man known for impersonating a Rockefeller was sentenced Thursday to 27 years to life in the death of his Southern California landlady's son, who disappeared in 1985.

A jury in April convicted German-born Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter of first-degree murder in the killing of John Sohus, 27.

Sohus' dismembered remains were found in 1994 by workers installing a pool at a home his mother once owned in San Marino.

At the time of Sohus' disappearance, Gerhartsreiter had been renting a guesthouse from Sohus' mother, authorities said.

The bespectacled and handcuffed Gerhartsreiter, clad in a blue jail jumpsuit, on Thursday filed a lengthy motion for a new trial.

"I would like to once again to reassert my innocence, that I would like to definitively state that I did not commit the crime of which I stand convicted," he said.

When Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli said evidence and testimony provided no basis for a new trial, the convicted man than withdrew the motion because he could not read it aloud in court. He still can file an appeal of his conviction and sentence.

The jury found that Gerhartsreiter used a sharp instrument and blunt object to commit the crime.

The whereabouts of the dead man's wife, Linda Sohus, are unknown. At his sentencing, Gerhartsreiter said she was responsible for the killing.

Before the sentence was imposed, John Sohus' sister, Ellen, told the court there was no closure for the family.

"Why did you kill my brother?" she said to Gerhartsreiter. "What happened to Linda? I believe Linda is dead, and I believe you are responsible for her death."

Sohus' father, who died in 2002, said there should be no memorial service until the killer was brought to justice.

"This destroyed him," said Ellen Sohus. "He told me that he thought of John everyday. He would periodically call me deep in his grief and say, 'Why John?' "

Gerhartsreiter, 52, had led a life of multiple identities, at one point assuming the identity of "Clark Rockefeller," a cultured poseur who never seemed to have a job.

A Boston tabloid dubbed him "Crockefeller." A 2010 made-for-TV movie, "Who Is Clark Rockefeller?" starring Eric McCormack as Gerhartsreiter, aired on the Lifetime network.

He was serving a prison sentence in Massachusetts for kidnapping his daughter, then 7, from his ex-wife in 2008 when he was transferred to California for the murder trial.

Gerhartsreiter came to the United States from Germany in 1978, according to testimony at his trial for kidnapping. After spending a few years in Connecticut, he moved to Wisconsin, where he married in a green card arrangement using his true name.

Gerhartsreiter then relocated to California.

He settled in San Marino, a wealthy community near Pasadena, where he lived under the name Christopher Chichester from 1983 to 1985.

He posed as a film student and boasted that he was of English royalty, according to Vanity Fair magazine, which profiled him in January 2009 and quoted several people who knew "Chichester" at the time.

As Chichester, he rented a guest house from Ruth "Didi" Sohus. John and Linda came to live with Didi Sohus during the time Gerhartsreiter lived in the guest quarters.

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