Gerhartsreiter Hearings, Days 3 and 4

On the third day of hearings to determine whether Christian Gerhartsreiter will stand trial for the 1985 slaying of John Sohus – Friday, January 21 – an LA Times reporter interpreted the defense attorneys’ questions as an indication their strategy may be to raise doubt by blaming Linda Sohus, the murder victim’s missing wife.

Brad Bailey, a lawyer for Gerhartsreiter, questioned witnesses about tension between Sohus and his wife. Friends said the newlyweds shared a love of science fiction but had money problems and struggled with the possibility of moving out of Sohus’ mother’s home. Linda Sohus’ remains have never been found, however, authorities presume she is dead.

Patrick Rayermann, a former Army colonel who said he had known Sohus since the sixth grade, testified that he last saw John and Linda Sohus in January 1985, when the three met for dinner. Bailey asked Rayermann about the difference in stature between the newlywed couple.

“She was the larger of the couple,” Rayermann replied, saying she was 6 or 7 inches taller and about 50 pounds heavier. “It was noticeable,” he said.

Ravermann said Linda appeared to have had disagreements with John’s mother.

“John was torn between his loyalty to his mother and his desire to continue to help her in her more older years, and his desire to establish his own independent household with Linda,” Rayermann said.

Lydia Marano, who employed Linda at Dangerous Visions bookstore in Sherman Oaks bookstore, was called as a witness. A Boston Globe story says:

Several times a week, John would visit Linda at the Sherman Oaks book store where she worked. There, the couple would snuggle, kiss, and hold hands, Lydia Marano, the store owner, said in court. “It made the rest of us smile,’’ she said.

Linda was generally upbeat but living with Didi wore on her, Marano said….

The last time Marano spoke to Linda, it was to tell her she planned to be away for a long weekend and to ask if Linda would open the bookstore for her. Linda agreed, but when Marano came by the shop that Sunday, it was closed. Linda had not come by at all, Marano said, something that was uncharacteristic of her employee. “She was the most trustworthy person I had working for me,’’ Marano said….

But months after they disappeared, the couple’s clothing was still strewn about their room, testified Didi Sohus’s grandson, Harry Sherwood, who visited San Marino in 1985. Linda’s paintings and art supplies remained. In the bathroom was a brand-new box of insulin that belonged to John, a diabetic.

“It just looked like someone was gone for the day, and not gone forever,’’ Sherwood said.

That year, Marano received a postcard from Paris. “Not quite New York, but not bad,’’ the message said. It was signed by the couple.

Marano, who never heard Linda talk about going to New York or Paris, said she had no idea what the message meant.

Also, a forensic scientist testified about four bloodstains found in the guesthouse on Didi Sohus’ property, where Gerhartsreiter lived as a tenant. She also testified that a T-shirt found with the skeleton had several cuts that appeared to have been made by a sharp object.

The fourth day of hearings — Monday, January 23 —  brought testimony from an elderly couple who identified Gerhartsreiter as the man who tried to sell them a blood-stained rug, and also the person who received John Sohus’ white pickup truck from Gerhartsreiter. The LA Times reports:

…A man who knew Gerhartsreiter in Connecticut around 1988, then by the name Christopher Crowe, testified that the man gave him a white pickup truck that he later learned was linked to a missing person’s investigation in California.

Christopher Bishop, an Episcopal priest who was at the time a struggling film student, said Gerhartsreiter, who claimed to be a film producer, gave him a truck he said he had used in a movie production and no longer needed.

Authorities have said the truck belonged to John Sohus, who abruptly went missing along with his wife, Linda, around the time Gerhartsreiter left San Marino.

The Pasadena Star-News story, here, gives additional details of the fourth day of testimony.

Developments in Sohus Case

The FBI, using fingerprint evidence, has verified Clark Rockefeller’s West German origins:

The FBI has exposed one of Boston’s “longest cons,” using fingerprints lifted off a wine glass and a 27-year-old immigration document to prove accused kidnapper Clark Rockefeller is really a serial fraud from West Germany.

FBI and Boston law enforcement officials announced yesterday that the bespectacled 47-year-old’s “true” identity is Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, born in West Germany in 1961.

The Boston Herald reports some personal and professional criticism of the investigation:

[Katherine Jacoby, Linda Sohus’ sister] said she is angry at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for not contacting her about the probe in which they identified Gerhartsreiter as a “person of interest” in her sister’s disappearance….

Police investigation expert Stacy Dittrich, a former Ohio detective who now works as a national crime consultant, agreed the sheriff’s department could have used dental records to identify the skeletal remains. “I just don’t understand why that hasn’t been done yet. That is the first thing that should have been done,” she said.

Homicide investigators have also received information from a Northern California art collector. He placed a phone call to Linda Sohus, asking about a painting he’d commissioned, possibly just a few hours before she disappeared. The Pasadena Star News reported on August 16:

Hours before she and her husband vanished 23 years ago, Linda Sohus seemed anxious, excited and frustrated….

“She basically said, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you,'” the art connoisseur recalled. “‘Things are just kind of crazy here. My husband’s gotten a job offer in New York and it looks like I’m going to have to move right away and I’m just running around like crazy.'”

Linda told the collector that her husband had taken a classified job working on a government satellite program, but couldn’t say more and quickly hung up. And then the newlywed couple vanished.

The Star News article also quotes Lydia Marano, Galen Tripp and Charles Lee Jackson II (current LASFS President).