The prosecution in the Gerhartsreiter murder trial spent the week leading jurors through Christian Gerhartsreiter’s transition from his “Chichester” to “Clark Rockefeller” identity.
Gerhartsreiter is charged with the 1985 bludgeoning death of LASFS member John Sohus, whose body was found in 1994 buried in the backyard of the property where John, his wife Linda, his mother Didi, and tenant “Christopher Chichester” (Gerhartsreiter) then lived. Linda has not been seen since that time.
Gerhartsreiter, who also disappeared in 1985, soon resurfaced on the East Coast under the name Christopher Crowe. As Crowe, Gerhartsreiter gave a Connecticut acquaintance a white pickup truck registered to the Sohuses, prosecutors said. When authorities traced the vehicle to Connecticut they tried to contact Gerhartsreiter and question him about the couple’s disappearance.
Witness Mihoko Manabe met Gerhartsreiter in 1987 at Nikko Securities, a Japanese brokerage firm with a New York City office. Manabe worked there as a translator, and Gerhartsreiter, whom she knew as Crowe, was the head of a bond trading department. Eventually they began dating, and then lived together in her Manhattan apartment.
When a Greenwich, Connecticut detective tried to contact Gerhartsreiter about the Sohus case he changed his name, dyed his hair, and shredded his trash.
“He was always paranoid that someone would be rifling through our trash,” Manabe said. “He always shredded all of the addresses, shredded the garbage and we (always) threw (it) out in a public place. “
Manabe recalled when he began using the Rockefeller name.
In 1989, Manabe and Gerhartsreiter took a trip to Camden, Maine, to look for wedding venues. Gerhartsreiter made a reservation at a restaurant using the name Clark Rockefeller. It was the first time he used the name, she said.
He continued to use it, she said, because “he liked the attention that he got.”
Manabe, who spoke quietly on the witness stand, said she was embarrassed to answer questions about the couple’s relationship, which lasted until 1994, when she broke up with him.
“It’s not part of my life I like to talk about or remember,” she said.
“Chichester” was fired from Nikko Securities after its HR department found out that his name wasn’t real. He told Mahabe his real name was “Christopher Chichester Mountbatten.” He got a new job at Kidder, Peabody and Co., another New York securities firm. But he walked away from that job shortly after the Greenwich police detective began trying to meet him at the office.
Ralph Boynton, who was his boss at Kidder, Peabody, testified that he tried on several occasions to arrange a meeting between the detective and Gerhartsreiter at his firm’s New York offices.
Boynton said he did not tell Gerhartsreiter that the detective was looking for him. However, each time the detective was waiting, Gerhartsreiter failed to show up, Boynton said. Finally, Boynton said that in a telephone conversation, Gerhartsreiter asked for an extended leave of absence from the firm, saying “his parents were in harm’s way and possibly being kidnapped by foreign elites.”
By 2000, Gerhartsreiter was living part-time in Cornish, New Hampshire under the name Clark Rockefeller. There he met Christopher Kuzma, who testified that the two remained friends until 2008. Rockefeller made a lot of claims to his friend, among them:
- He raised bees and was a “microagronomist”;
- He had a private jet, but the family thought he was using it too much and it was too expensive
- He and other members of his family had personal chefs on Nantucket Island
- He owned property in Montana and was neighbors with Kevin Costner in Wyoming
- He was going to audition for a new version of “Star Wars” and once went on a trip with the movie’s theme composer, John Williams;
- He was a member of a committee in New York charged with making sure the governor’s mansion there was kept “up to snuff “
- He consulted with the Conservative Party in Great Britain, which he referred to as “Her Majesty’s opposition “
- He was a member of the World Bank
- He helped developed a theory of particle physics known as “The Casimir Effect” and was testing it onboard the International Space Station, before he sold his company to Boeing.
Kuzma said he never questioned Rockefeller’s truthfulness, even though others did.
Links to local reports:
Pasadena Star-News: Murder suspect changed name, hair color and stopped driving when cops sought him for questioning
LA Times: Ex-girlfriend recounts Rockefeller impostor’s paranoia
Pasadena Star-News: Fake Rockefeller trial: Murder suspect told friend outrageous lies
L A Times: Rockefeller impostor avoided East Coast detective, witness says
Pasadena Star-News: Murder suspect claimed to be Quaker, pacifist in TV interview