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Rockefeller imposter denies killing San Marino man

March 17, 2011 |  7:28 am

The German man who claimed various identities, including being a heir to the Rockefeller fortune, is denying he killed a San Marino man in 1985, his attorney said.

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, who claimed for years his name was Clark Rockefeller, was charged with killing a San Marino man whose back house he was renting in the 1980s. The man and his wife went missing not long before Gerhartsreiter left San Marino.

In the single-count indictment, Los Angeles prosecutors allege Gerhartsreiter, now 50, used a "blunt object" to kill Jonathan Sohus. The body of Linda Sohus still has not been found, said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore.

Los Angeles County authorities will begin extradition proceedings immediately, he said.

Gerhartsreiter is in a Boston prison serving a sentence in an abduction case. Jeffrey Denner, his attorney, said his client is not guilty of the killing.

"I’ve known this man for three years," Denner told the Boston Globe. "There is nothing in his character to suggest he would kill anybody, much less John Sohus."

Detectives were able to put the case together 26 years later, said sheriff's homicide Lt. Wes Sutton, because of "additional evidence gathered using modern technology. We were able to link all the pieces together and present a case to the district attorney's office."

Not only had Los Angeles County authorities lost track of the tenant they knew as Chichester, but also  Sohus' body wasn't unearthed until nine years after his disappearance, when a new owner of the home was excavating for a swimming pool.

And once the skeleton was discovered, DNA technology was too primitive to definitively identify it as the remains of Sohus until last year. Complicating the investigation was the fact that Sohus was adopted.

"Overwhelming circumstantial evidence" led to the murder charge against Gerhartsreiter, Whitmore said.

When a neighbor noticed new turf at the Sohus family home on Lorian Road, Gerhartsreiter attributed it to a plumbing problem.

Additionally, officials said, Gerhartsreiter -- using the name Christopher Crowe -- tried to sell a truck in Connecticut that had belonged to Sohus shortly after Sohus disappeared. The deal fell through when the would-be buyer became suspicious that Gerhartsreiter could not produce any paperwork and called police. But police were unable to prove that Gerhartsreiter had not purchased the truck legally.


Elusive 'Clark Rockefeller' figure charged in 1980s slaying of San Marino man

-- Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter in court in 2009. Credit: Associated Press