The prosecution covered the Sohus missing persons investigation during the Gerhartsreiter trial on Friday, March 22.
A former San Marino police officer told jurors about taking a missing persons report on the couple in April 1985. But after a lengthy sidebar the judge did not permit him to be questioned about certain statements made by Didi Sohus, mother of murder victim John Sohus. In a preliminary hearing last year, the officer said Didi told him she was in contact with her son and daughter-in-law through a secret source, a source who told her not to worry, that John and Linda were on a “top secret” mission and would eventually get in contact with her.
Another San Marino detective contacted Gerhartsreiter as part of the 1985 investigation:
“He was nude. He just came to the door naked,” Yankovich testified. “I asked him to put some clothes on. He said, ‘No, I’m a nudist.’ “
A second missing persons report was taken from Didi Sohus in July 1985 by former San Marino police officer Lili Hadsell after Gerhartsreiter disappeared.
“She was a little agitated,” Hadsell recalled of John’s mother. “She was upset. She came out onto the porch. We talked a little bit. She seemed more agitated and upset than I’d seen her before. “
Detective Yankovich reopened the case in 1988 and learned that a Nissan pickup truck registered to John and Linda was in the possession of a Connecticut couple. He asked a Greenwich detective to follow up on the lead, but never caught up with Gerhartsreiter.
Didi Sohus’ grandson, Harry Sherwood IV, an Army major, and the sole heir to her estate, also testified. He visited the house in November 1985 and said it appeared as if Linda, an artist known as Cody, had left her supplies and completed paintings behind in a bedroom she shared with her husband.
When court resumed on Monday, March 25, a friend of the couple’s, Susan Coffman recalled visiting them in 1983 and asking why they didn’t live in the guest house on the property:
“(Linda) said, ‘Oh, there’s a renter that lives there,’” Coffman recalled. “And, ‘we don’t talk to him because he’s kind of creepy.’ “
Gerhartsreiter was the renter.
Coffman described the Sohuses as “two contented puppies” who were “happy to be in each other’s presence.” Coffman was the maid of honor in the Sohuses’ Halloween 1983 wedding, which was at her house, she said.
Coffman last spoke to Linda in early February 1985. Linda told her John had gotten a job with the government and the couple would be going back East for a couple of weeks. Coffman later received a postcard marked “Paris, France” and signed “John and Linda” with the message, “Hi Sue – Kinda missed New York (oops) but this can be lived with – John + Linda ”
Defense attorneys challenged Coffman about her knowledge of the couple’s relationship. They argue that Linda may have killed her husband, noting that she has never been found.
Patrick Rayermann, a close childhood friend of John Sohus, also testified that he never saw the couple fight. “They seemed very much in love with each other,” Rayermann said.
Key testimony on Tuesday, March 26, came from two men who knew Gerhartsreiter – then going by the name “Christopher Chichester” – through the local Episcopal Church. One of them lent Gerhartsreiter his chainsaw around the time the couple disappeared. The other remembers Gerhartsreiter trying to sell him an Oriental rug, which his wife remarked had bloodstains on it.
“She said, ‘there’s spots,’” Brown recalled. “”There’s a blood spot on there.’ I don’t recall he said anything he just rolled the rug up.”
A neighbor also testified that she smelled burning rubber and saw dark smoke coming from the chimney of the guest house next door, and called to ask Gerhartsreiter what was going on.
“I’m burning carpet,” she said he told her. “I said, ‘You don’t burn carpet. You throw it away. Please stop! You’re reeking up the neighborhood.’ ”
She said that the smoke ended within 10 to 15 minutes of her call.
She estimated that she saw the smoke in the fall of 1984 or early spring of 1985. The Sohuses were last seen in February 1985.
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