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Rockefeller impostor: Missing couple sparked fears

January 19, 2012 |  2:39 pm

Jonathan Sohus disappeared in 1985
The mother of a man who disappeared in 1985 first believed her son and daughter-in-law were in Paris working on a confidential assignment, but became increasingly worried as months passed.

Witnesses took the stand Wednesday on the second day of a preliminary hearing in the 1985 death of John Sohus of San Marino. The remains of Sohus, 26, weren't discovered until 1994, when crews digging a swimming pool came across a fiberglass box carrying body parts meticulously wrapped in plastic. His wife, Linda Sohus, also mysteriously disappeared in 1985 and was never discovered.

Christian Gerhartsreiter, a German-born man who lived for a period of time in Sohus' mother's home, has been charged with Sohus' murder. Authorities say Gerhartsreiter, who for many years pretended to be a member of the wealthy Rockefeller clan, is a con man who took on myriad aliases and personalities while moving from Connecticut to San Marino to New England.

PHOTOS: Clark Rockefeller investigation

Three witnesses testified Thursday morning, including Sohus' next-door neighbor and a San Marino police officer who visited the house multiple times in 1985 in response to the missing person investigation that was filed in April of that year.

Baldwin Park Police Chief Lili Hadsell, who was a San Marino patrol officer in 1985, told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Jared Moses that she had responded to calls from Sohus' mother, Ruth "Didi" Sohus, multiple times after the initial police report. Hadsell noticed that Ruth Sohus was becoming increasingly "agitated" and concerned about the whereabouts of her son and his wife, who had been living at her house.

Sohus was not initially concerned because she told police she was able to contact them through Gerhartsreiter.

Months later, Ruth Sohus was receiving calls from bank collectors and worried friends. "She was looking genuinely nervous and scared that something had happened, and John and Linda were missing," Hadsell testified.

Mari Mountjoy, one of Linda Sohus’ close friends, traveled from Lake Oroville, Calif., to attend the hearing.

"I had to come down to watch," Mountjoy said. "It took so long — no one, not law enforcement, not John's mother — was taking us seriously at first. But we knew in our gut that John and Linda were missing."

Prosecutors are expected to present about six days of witnesses and dozens of documents to the Superior Court in Alhambra.

Los Angeles area authorities were unable to locate Gerhartsreiter until his 2008 arrest for abducting his 7-year-old daughter. He is serving a five-year sentence in a Massachusetts state prison.


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Photo: John and Linda Sohus disappeared in 1985. His remains were found nine years later in the backyard of a San Marino home. She has never been found. Credit: Courtesy of Lydia Marano