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Rockefeller impostor to stand trial in cold-case slaying

January 24, 2012 |  4:04 pm

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter

A one-time Rockefeller impostor will stand trial in the three-decade-old cold-case slaying of a San Marino man found buried a backyard, an L.A. County judge ruled Tuesday.

The judge agreed there was enough evidence for a trial after listening to a week of testimony in the case.

Christian Gerhartsreiter, 50, faces a murder charge in the death of John Sohus, who went missing in 1985 and whose remains were unearthed a decade later in the backyard of Sohus' mother's San Marino home. Gerhartsreiter, authorities say, was a con man who used a number of aliases and for years posed as Clark Rockefeller, a member of the oil and banking clan.

During the hearing, two witnesses failed to recognize Gerhartsreiter, and one of them, an 81-year-old woman, picked out a television cameraman as the young man she knew in the 1980s.

The strongest testimony came from a couple who testified that Gerhartsreiter, then using the name Christopher Chichester, tried to sell them an Oriental rug with what appeared to be a bloodstain on it and didn’t deny that the spot was blood. Judge Jared Moses said he would consider the statement an adoptive admission by Gerhartsreiter that the stain in fact was blood.

More details emerged during testimony Tuesday.

In 1988, Mihoko Manabe received a call at her New York apartment from a Connecticut detective looking for her live-in boyfriend, a man she knew by the name Christopher Crowe. She took a message and hung up.

When she gave Crowe the message, their lives were turned upside down, Manabe recalled in court Tuesday. The boyfriend told her that the person who called wasn’t with the police, but a bad guy who was after him. He dyed his hair and eyebrows blond, grew a beard, and insisted they shred documents. They began using P.O. boxes for their mail, threw away their garbage at public shopping malls and walked on opposite sides of the street.

Some months after, Manabe testified, he began using the name that would later gain national notoriety -- Clark Rockefeller.


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-- Victoria Kim