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L.A. prosecutors could be forced to act if Clark Rockefeller is freed in kidnapping

June 10, 2009 | 12:56 pm

With the jury out in the kidnapping trial of the man who calls himself Clark Rockefeller, speculation grew today about whether he would be charged in connection with the disappearance of a San Marino couple 25 years ago.

If Rockefeller, whose real name is Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, was found not guilty on charges in the Boston area related to the kidnapping of his daughter last year during a supervised visit, he could face immediate deportation to Germany unless he is charged in Los Angeles County.

A Boston TV station today reported an indictment was pending in Los Angeles. But local prosecutors said the investigation into Jonathan and Linda Sohus’ death and Rockefeller’s role remains ongoing.

“Nothing has been filed. It is ongoing investigation,” said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the L.A. County district attorney’s office.

If Rockefeller avoids serious time in prison in the New England kidnapping case, he would face deportation and would likely not fight that move, forcing L.A. prosecutors to act before he leaves the country, sources said.

In Los Angeles, prosecutors rarely use a grand jury to indict suspects and generally charge them directly. A Los Angeles County grand jury has interviewed witnesses in the case. But that grand jury probe, according to sources, was done to gather information, not to bring a charge.

Gerhartsreiter’s arrest last year in the kidnapping prompted the L.A. County Sheriff's Department to reopen the San Marino investigation. He rented a guest house from the Sohuses in the early 1980s, using the name Christopher Chichester.

But in 1985, the couple disappeared, and soon after, Gerhartsreiter also left. Police investigated the disappearance, but the case didn't go far. Nine years later, though, as a new homeowner constructed a swimming pool, workers uncovered what is believed to be Jonathan Sohus' skeleton from the backyard.

But the trail again went cold until last summer, when Gerhartsreiter -- now using the name Rockefeller -- was accused of kidnapping his daughter during a supervised visit. Authorities eventually determined that Chichester and Rockefeller were the same person.

They traced his roots to a small town in Germany, where he was born. L.A. County sheriff's detectives declared him a "person of interest" in the disappearance and suspected killing of the Sohuses.

-- Richard Winton

Photo: L.A. Times file