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Rockefeller case: Witness says body parts wrapped in plastic

January 18, 2012 |  3:57 pm
Click here to see more photos.John Sohus was last seen in 1985, but his remains weren’t discovered until 1994, when crews digging a swimming pool in the backyard of a brick home came across a fiberglass box.

Inside the box were body parts each meticulously wrapped in plastic –- a skull, hands, feet, legs inside a pair of jeans, and a torso inside a T-shirt, testified Judith Daye, a physical anthropologist who worked for the Los Angeles County coroner at the time of the skeleton’s discovery, and responded to the scene.

“Did it appear to you someone had made a considerable effort to wrap the entire body in plastic?” Deputy Dist. Atty. Habib Balian asked.

PHOTOS: Clark Rockefeller investigation

“Yes. There didn’t seem to be any exceptions,” Daye responded.

Daye testified Wednesday on the first day of hearings for Christian Gerhartsreiter, a German-born man who authorities say took on myriad aliases and personalities while moving from Connecticut to San Marino to New England.

Authorities say Gerhartsreiter is a con man of numerous identities who for many years pretended to be a Rockefeller and is allegedly the elusive killer of Sohus, who disappeared in 1985.

In an indication of the man’s chameleon-like history, his defense attorneys asked Superior Court Judge Jared Moses whether they may continue to refer to him as Clark Rockefeller.

Attorney Brad Bailey said that was the name the attorneys of his firm -– who represented him in a Boston kidnapping case -– knew him by.

Moses denied the request, noting: “I honestly have never seen a circumstance where a defendant is referred to in court by one of his AKAs.”

Gerhartsreiter, who lived for a period of time in Sohus’ mother’s home, is charged with a single count of murder in Sohus' death.

Forensic pathologist Frank Sheridan said that fractures to the skull indicated the victim had suffered at least three blows to the head with a heavy, blunt object shortly before his death.

“The individual was alive when these fractures occurred and died very shortly afterwards,” said Sheridan, chief medical examiner for the San Bernardino County sheriff-coroner's office. “There’s a lot of force involved in these blows.”

Defense attorney Jeffrey Denner asked Sheridan if the injuries were more likely caused by a larger person, weighing around 300 pounds, or a lighter person of around 100 pounds. According to jail records, Gerhartsreiter weighs 150 pounds.

Sheridan said he could make no determination about the size of the killer.

“As far as I’m concerned anybody could do this, given the right instrument,” he said.


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 -- Victoria Kim

Photo: Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter is handcuffed during a preliminary court hearing in Alhambra on Wednesday. Credit: Walt Mancini / Associated Press