Rockefeller impostor accused of killing man in 1985 goes on trial
Jose Perez, working for his father's swimming pool business, was digging into the backyard of a San Marino home in 1994 when he made a grisly discovery: human bones wrapped in plastic and buried several feet underground.
Nearly two decades after that discovery, German-born Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter is scheduled to stand trial for the death of John Sohus, whom authorities linked to the remains. The opening statements in Gerhartsreiter's trial are expected to begin Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Sohus and his wife, Linda, disappeared in 1985, leaving behind John's mother, with whom the couple had been living in San Marino. It was the family's former home where the remains were found in 1994.
Authorities say Gerhartsreiter, 52, is a con man with several aliases who, for years, posed as a man named Clark Rockefeller, a member of the billionaire family and New England high society.
In the 1980s, authorities say, Gerhartsreiter — using the name Christopher Chichester— lived in the Sohus' guest house. Shortly after the Sohuses disappeared, so, too, did Chicester.
Gerhartsreiter, using the Rockefeller name, was arrested in 2008 for kidnapping his 7-year-old daughter. He was convicted in Massachusetts in that case and extradited to California while serving a four- to five-year prison term. He was charged in 2011 in connection with John Sohus' death.
During his preliminary hearing last year, Gerhartsreiter's defense attorneys asked a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge if they could continue to call him Clark Rockefeller since that was the name the attorneys knew him by. The judge denied the request.
Although Linda Sohus was never located, authorities have said they presume her to be dead.
Gerhartsreiter is in custody in Los Angeles in lieu of $10 million bail.
— Hailey Branson-Potts
Photo: The Sohuses in family photo.