Gerhartsreiter Found Guilty

At the end of a 17-day trial in Los Angeles the jury found Christian Gerhartsreiter guilty of murdering LASFS member John Sohus in 1985. The defendant showed little emotion when the court clerk announced the jury had convicted him of first-degree murder.

Jurors told the Pasadena Star-News that two book bags were critical evidence in convincing them of the defendant’s guilt:

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Balian built his case largely on circumstantial evidence, but there was a lot of it. Perhaps the most damaging was the fact that Sohus’ head was found buried in a plastic, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee book bag. Gerhartsreiter attended the university from 1979-82 before coming to the San GabrielValley.

Juror Vincent Garcia said that bag, coupled with a University of Southern California book bag, was the most solid piece of evidence the jury saw.

“The prosecutor didn’t leave much for the defense to work with,” said juror Salvador Ruiz of Norwalk.

And another juror said:

Gema Vasquez of LincolnHeights, a nurse, said she was ready to go back to work. She also pointed to the bags as key pieces of evidence in the case and said Gerhartsreiter’s attempt to get rid of the Sohus’ pickup truck in Greenwich, Connecticut in 1988 also weighed heavily in the decision to convict him.

“That was really stupid,” Vasquez said. “If you haven’t killed him, why are you giving the truck away and taking it back? How can a person kill another person? It was really stupid.”

Ellen Sohus, John’s sister, addressed the media after the verdict (for video, here).

The victim’s sister, Ellen Sohus, dabbed her eyes with a tissue after the verdict. “It’s finally over,” she said.

Sohus, who described her late brother as gentle, fun-loving and “the original nerd” who loved gadgets and electronics, said she sat through the trial to show that John Sohus was loved. She was surrounded, she said, by Linda Sohus’ friends, whom she called a source of unexpected support.

John Sohus, she said, “would be so overwhelmed by how many people loved him and how many people were fighting for him.”

Local coverage:

LA Times: Rockefeller imposter ‘continues to maintain his innocence’

Pasadena Star-News:  Updated: Jurors say guilty verdict for phony Rockefeller was in the bag

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15 thoughts on “Gerhartsreiter Found Guilty

  1. “Showed little emotion.” After 28 years, I’m not sure how clearly he even remembers the crime.

  2. Well, you remember all the fine points of your fanzines from the 70s pretty thoroughly. That’s even longer, and mostly nonviolent…

  3. 28 years still seems an indecently long wait before the trial and verdict. I sense a complicated back-story…

  4. Hm? Only one day elapsed between the end of the trial and the verdict.

    Twenty-eight years passed between the murder and the conviction. Nine years before the body was found. Another decade or more before the suspect was found, identified while the state of Massachusetts was prosecuting him for kidnapping.

    You’re right, there’s a complicated back story.

  5. There seems to be more than one story, and they all don’t speak well for the convicted man.

    There’s been two people I know in fandom who was murdered. And no one was ever charged in either case.

  6. There was a Vancouver fan who was murdered, back in the 1980s. I think it was Hen Flanders, who got into some sort of Mr. Goodbar situation. I don’t believe the killer was ever found. Someone from that era of BC fandom would know more of the details.

  7. I’ve been following this case since 1994 and can assure you its one of the most bizarre I’ve ever encountered. I wrote a book too because I believed there was as much in John and Linda’s story as there was in the killer’s tale. Judge for yourself if I paid sufficient homage to the innocent victims. My book is available for $20 at

  8. @Frank Girardot: I’ve been depending on your insightful reporting for years and am confident you’ve done a great job with the book, too.

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