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

Gerhartsreiter Murder Trial Starts Today

Linda and John Sohus

Linda and John Sohus. Photo by Lydia Marano, taken at her Dangerous Visions Bookstore.

“Only his lawyers still call him ‘Mr. Rockefeller,’” begins Christiane Heil’s trial preview for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. (It’s in German, so I resorted to Google Translate.)

Heil sent me some questions over the weekend and I responded by explaining my interest in the Sohuses and why I’ve pursued the case through File 770. Here’s the essence —

At its peak in the 1980s, LASFS’ weekly club meetings attracted 150 attendees. That’s when John Sohus and Linda Mayfield Sohus were active. John assisted in the club library for awhile.

I was acquainted with both of them, but wasn’t among the friends who socialized with them outside of club meetings.

A lot of people passed through the club, and when members marry that often leads them in another direction. After John and Linda married, eventually I stopped seeing them around. I didn’t attach any significance to it. Initially I didn’t consider it a “disappearance.” However, in time, some of their closer friends wondered what happened to them and asked around the club for information. Nothing was known until John’s body was discovered almost a decade later.

I didn’t meet or hear about Gerhartsreiter (under that name or his alias) in those days.

I started following the story once Gerhartsreiter was named as a suspect because the victims were fans I had once known. I feel outrage against what we now know happened to them. Beyond that, I feel the same sadness as when I hear another club member has passed away (from health reasons), who died alone and is discovered later — that it’s somehow unfair to go alone. In John’s case, he met a terrifying end, which also makes me want to follow this case because the person who did it (if Gerhartsreiter is that person) should not get away with it.

Having written so often about the case I’ve certainly thought about attending the trial, unfortunately, my hearing (even with hearing aids) is so bad I probably wouldn’t be able to follow what’s going on. However, Frank Girardot’s coverage for the Pasadena Star-News has been excellent and I’m relying on him for the daily details.

Gerhartsreiter Trial Preparations

Juror screening in the Gerhartsreiter case began on Monday, March 11. Court resumed on Tuesday as attorneys made motions about evidence to be considered at trial.

Gerhartsreiter is accused of killing LASFS member John Sohus with a dangerous weapon, Judge George Lomelli told potential jurors. Sohus and his wife Linda Sohus disappeared in February 1985 from their home on Lorain Road in San Marino.

The accused is being held in Men’s Central Jail in lieu of $10 million bail. His defense team includes Brad Bailey and Jeffrey Denner, of Boston, and Danielle Menard of Providence. The prosecutor is Deputy District Attorney Habib Balian.

Attorneys may call as many as 93 witnesses, among them Rockefeller’s former wife, Sandra Boss, 15 law enforcement officers, 15 experts, and several residents or former residents ofSan Marino, the town where the murder occurred and Gerhartsreiter once lived under the name Christopher Chichester, the XIII baronet of Chichester.

On Tuesday, Gerhartsreiter’s attorneys Denner and Bailey acknowledged that he’s unlikely to testify in his own defense, but if he does Judge Lomeli will allow his 2009 conviction in Massachussets for child abduction to be admitted. Prosecutor Habib Balian argued the conviciton is evidence of “moral turpitude.”

Defense attorneys reportedly will be allowed to argue to jurors that a third party may have killed John Sohus.

The potential jurors return to the courtroom Friday morning. If the panel is completed in time, trial is set to begin Monday March 18, 2013.

Clark Rockefeller Will Face Trial in LA

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, a.k.a. Clark Rockefeller, will face trial in California on charges of murdering LASFS member John Sohus in 1985. He is also a suspect in the disappearance of Sohus’ wife Linda, whose body has never been found.

Already serving 5 years in Massachusetts for kidnapping his daughter, Gerhartsreiter reportedly will not fight extradition to California to face murder charges.

He will not arrive in California as soon as authorities expected, however:

“We don’t have an exact date,” said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. “There’s a delay, but we’re making progress. It will be a month to a month-an-a-half.”

A recently published book, The Man in the Rockefeller Suit by Mark Seal, attempts to unravel the tissue of lies wrapped around the imposter’s life. Says the LA Times review:

Seal, who first tumbled down the Gerhartsreiter rabbit hole when profiling him for Vanity Fair, shows how the imposter used his computer skills, personal magnetism, pedigree dog and even his cherubic daughter to worm his way into elite circles. Like many con men, Gerhartsreiter had a preternatural ability to suss out individuals susceptible to his fabrications, who would then vouch for him and open doors.

But as Seal points out, even in pre-Google times, basic library research would have revealed that Gerhartsreiter wasn’t the 13th Baronet of Chichester, grandson of Lord Mountbatten, owner of England’s Chichester Cathedral, producer of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents Presents,” a Yale/Harvard grad or owner of the Mondrians, Rothkos and Motherwells on his walls.

Gerhartsreiter Indicted for Murder of John Sohus

Christian Gerhartsreiter has been charged with the murder of John Sohus. Sohus’ remains were found in 1994, buried in the backyard of a San Marino home that once belonged to his mother. Gerhartsreiter, living under an assumed name, had been a tenant in the Sohus’ guesthouse.

John and his wife Linda, both LASFS members, disappeared in 1985. Linda is still missing.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office filed the charges on March 15. In the single-count indictment prosecutors allege Gerhartsreiter used a “blunt object” to kill John Sohus.

The Boston Herald reports that prosecutors are seeking Gerhartsreiter’s arrest and extradition from Massachusetts, where he is serving time for kidnapping his daughter during a custody dispute:

Ellen Sohus, John Sohus’s younger sister, said she received a call from Los Angeles authorities earlier this afternoon telling her about the charges against Gerhartsreiter.

“We feel like that this has been a very, very long ordeal over the last 25 years and it gives us hope that we will have closure, finally,” she said in a telephone interview from her home in Arizona.

The statement by prosecutors today was the first time they had acknowledged that they had determined the remains found in the yard belonged to John Sohus.

Gerhartsreiter’s lawyer, Jeffrey Denner, who represented him during his kidnapping trial, said his client is innocent.

Christian Gerhartsreiter was living under the name Clark Rockefeller when he was arrested on charges of kidnapping his daughter. He has admitted being “Christopher Chichester”, previously sought as a “person of interest” in the Sohus disappearance.

Vanity Fair, in a 2009 article, said that during the 1994 search “along with human bones, investigators found a flannel shirt and blue jeans, John Sohus’s standard dress. (Using the chemical luminol, they also detected traces of blood on the floor of Chichester’s apartment.)”

Jury Convicts Clark Rockefeller

Christian Gerhartsreiter, aka Clark Rockefeller, has been sentenced to four to five years in a Massachusetts prison after being found guilty of kidnapping his daughter.

The jury returned its verdict on Friday, June 12, ending 26-1/2 hours of deliberations over five days. The jury also found him guilty of assault and battery with a deadly weapon on a social worker. They rejected his insanity defense, but found him not guilty on two lesser charges.

After the conclusion of the hearing, the jurors returned and gave a joint statement:

“This was a complicated case, and not as clear-cut as it might have seemed to those who followed it in the media,” the jurors’ statement said.

“We are confident that our verdict is fair and just, and based only on the information we were legally allowed to consider,” it continued. “Our verdict is a unanimous one, as the law requires, and all of us stand by the verdict completely. “

The jurors said the terse statement was their final word on the case. They did not take questions.

When Gerhartsreiter completes his sentence, he faces removal from the country by immigration authorities.

A grand jury in Los Angeles is continuing to investigate his possible role in the 1985 disappearance and deaths of John and Linda Sohus, two LASFS members. The LA Times had speculated that if Gerhartsreiter was found not guilty of kidnapping, local authorities might be forced to file charges before he could be deported. Now LA authorities will not be compelled to take urgent action.

Rockfeller Trial Continues

The Boston Herald is posting daily articles about the trial of Christian Gerharstreiter aka Clark Rockefeller on charges of kidnapping his daughter last July. The prosecution and defense have wrangled over numerous procedural issues, including what name Gerharstreiter will be called by the judge, leading to a peculiar decision:

The con man known internationally by a half dozen aliases – but mainly as Clark Rockefeller – will essentially have no name at his trial.

A Suffolk Superior Court judge today ruled that Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter – living in the United States under the name Clark Rockefeller since 1983 – will simply be know as “the defendant.”

Judge Frank Gaziano’s decision did not sit well with Rockefellers’s defense team, even though Gerhartsreiter, 48, a German national, is the name for which he was indicted on charges stemming from the July 27 kidnapping of his then 7-year-old daughter Reigh “Snooks” Boss during a supervised visit in the Back Bay while his ex-wife Sandra Boss of London waited at a Boston hotel.

Gerhartsreiter’s defense is that he was insane or suffering from a “mental defect” at the time. Several psychologists are testifying.

Prosecutors have agreed not to tell the jury that ‘Rockefeller’ is a “person of interest” in the 1985 disappearance of a California couple, LASFS members Linda Mayfield and John Sohus.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]

Half Already Think Rockefeller Is Guilty

Pretrial wrangling continues in the Clark Rockefeller kidnapping case:   

Jurors hearing the sensational Clark Rockefeller kidnapping case next month will never see a taped four-hour interview he gave Boston police and the FBI because officers ignored his request to remain silent…

But the court has refused to drop the charge that Rockefeller used a false name, for the probable cause of avoiding deportation.

Meantime, a poll of Suffolk County (MA) residents show nearly half believe Rockefeller is guilty of kidnapping. His attorneys are maneuvering for a possible change of venue.

There have been no new developments in the Sohus disappearance case, where Rockefeller/Gerhartsreiter is a person of interest.

More on Sohus Grand Jury

A Los Angeles County grand jury looking at the 1986 disappearance of LASFSians Linda and John Sohus are expected to hear from two handwriting specialists about the authenticity of a postcard from Europe purportedly signed by Linda Sohus, received by sf bookstore owner after she had vanished. The Boston Globe reports:

Prosecutors reviving the case have subpoenaed Katherine Koppenhaver, a handwriting analyst who has testified in more than 350 cases….

Last summer, The Pasadena Star-News contacted Koppenhaver and two other handwriting analysts to examine one of the Paris postcards and compare it with a known sample of Linda Sohus’s writing from late 1984. Koppenhaver and another analyst concluded that the postcard they examined was written by someone else. A third analyst, however, believed that both writing samples were from Sohus…

Koppenhaver said yesterday that she gave verbal, not written, findings for the newspaper story. But she reiterated that the known Linda Sohus writing sample and the postcard were written by different people….

Koppenhaver and the dissenting analyst have been subpoenaed in the case. The third specialist contacted by the Pasadena newspaper, Karl Schaffenberger, could not be reached yesterday for comment.

Sheila Lowe, a handwriting analyst from Ventura, Calif., said she mailed prosecutors written findings, including a chart prepared for the Star-News. The different writing samples contained many similar features, suggesting they were written by the same person, she said. “That’s something I’d feel comfortable going to court and testifying in.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]