Witness testimony ended this week in the Gehartsreiter murder trial. All the remains is for the closing statements to be delivered, which will happen on Monday, April 8.
Gerhartsreiter, Sohus, Sohus’ wife Linda, and his mother Didi lived at the same address on Lorain Road in San Marino in 1985 when John and Linda disappeared. John’s mother later moved out. In 1994, workers digging a swimming pool unearthed John’s bones. His body had been cut into thirds. Linda Sohus has never been found.
Gerhartsreiter moved to Connecticut in 1985 with the couple’s white pickup truck and then fled Connecticut for New York in 1988 when detectives tried to contact him about the couple’s disappearance. On the East Coast he assumed other names, the last of them Clark Rockfeller.
The most significant testimony of the week came from Sandra Boss, a London-based financial expert, who was married to the imposter for nearly a dozen years.
Boss, who rarely glanced at her ex-husband in court and referred to him only as “the defendant,” testified that she met the man she knew as Rockefeller after he phoned her and invited her to a Clue-themed cocktail party at his Manhattan apartment. She went as the mystery board game’s actress Miss Scarlet. Rockefeller dressed as Professor Plum, she said. Days later, he asked her out on a date.
“He was very intelligent, funny, quirky, very charming,” she said. “I thought I was in love with him. I thought I wanted to marry him.”
They wed in 1995 in Nantucket, Mass. The pair had previously attended Episcopal services but her husband suggested a Quaker ceremony, which did not require a formal officiant, explaining that he preferred its simplicity.
Boss told about her husband’s secretiveness. Their utilities, phones and property were all in her name or the name of a trust connected to her. Bank accounts were in her name. He paid the bills using blank checks she had signed.
She also described his efforts to avoid recognition, wearing hats in public, and refusing altogether to travel to either California or Connecticut, the state where he claimed his parents had died in a car accident. Once airline passengers began having to provide official identification, her husband stopped flying, claiming he had ear problems.
Boss was afraid to leave her marriage despite earning $1.2 million a year as a consultant with a London company. “I wanted to leave him… But he told me that if i did I would never see my daughter again.”
Describing a brief separation in 1999, Boss said Gerhartsreiter was a control freak who was difficult to live with and lied “pretty frequently”.
“He was an unpleasant human being who was clearly choosing not to work,” she said. “I was clearly uncomfortable remaining in that situation.”
Boss was the prosecution’s last witness. She was followed by two defense witnesses: handwriting experts who testified that the postcards signed and sent by Linda with a Paris, France postmark were likely written by the missing woman.
Barbara Torres, a forensic document examiner for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, testified that the handwriting on the postcards from France matched examples of Linda’s handwriting, including a Halloween card and a letter to a man who had purchased some of her fantasy artwork. Another handwriting expert, Sheila Lowe, said she had a “high degree of professional certainty … that the handwriting on the postcards is authentic.”
Linda Sohus’ boss, who ran a Sherman Oaks bookstore, testified that Linda did not have the money to travel abroad and had promised to open up the bookstore in the coming days before she disappeared.
“She did not write these postcards under normal circumstances,” Balian told jurors earlier in the trial.
Defense attorney Brad Bailey suggested earlier in the trial that Linda had created a “smoke screen” to cover the killing of her husband.
Both sides agreed at trial that there is no record of John or Linda Sohus entering or exiting the United States since the beginning of 1985 and that neither ever applied for a passport.
Local news reports:
Pasadena Star-News: Star Witness in Rockefeller trial likely to be accused killer’s ex-wife
Pasadena Star-News: Ex-wife: Fake Rockefeller changed from charming to downright weird
LA Times: Wife of Rockefeller impostor hired detective to look into his background
Pasadena Star-News: Fake Rockefeller trial nears end as both sides rest
LA Times: Rockefeller imposter trial focuses on handwriting evidence
LA Times: Defense rests its case in Rockefeller impostor murder trial