Correspondent Erin Moriarty
Produced by Judy Rybak
Christian Gerhartsreiter was a man of many identities – but to most he was “Clark Rockefeller”– a con man who duped people across the country. To police, he was a suspected killer on the run from a 1985 murder. “48 Hours” correspondent Erin Moriarty confronts Gerhartsreiter, pressing him to reveal his secrets.
“I’d never been to a murder trial before. You know, imagine me. One of my best friends is the defendant at the first murder trial I get to go to … somebody who’s fooled me for years. … I’m a journalist and a novelist. And so you’d think that I was the kinda guy who would see through someone like him. And the fact was I never did,” Walter Kirn told Moriarty.
Writer Kirn was a friend of “Clark Rockefeller” – or the man he who knew by that name.
“But now, witness after witness was coming up and giving evidence about what was really going on and that the person I knew was actually hiding from a murder the whole time and that a lot of what I thought were his eccentricities, his concerns about privacy, his concerns about security … all of these things suddenly took on a whole new meaning,” he continued.
America has long been the land of opportunity, and in 1982, there were few places more inviting than San Marino, Calif., an opulent suburb of Los Angeles that felt like a small town.
“It was a — sort of an Andy Hardy existence,” described one San Marino socialite.
“Like, a wealthy Mayberry?” Moriarty asked. “Well, that could be,” the woman replied.
It was the perfect setting for English royalty.
“You knew him by what name?” Moriarty asked the trio of women.
“Christopher Chichester the 13th — the 13th Baronet (laughs) of England,” the same woman replied.
The 21-year-old baronet had a posh accent and old-world charm and made sure that he was properly introduced.
“He was at Church of Our Savior a lot,” the woman explained. “It’s the oldest church in the area.”
And the church was the most prestigious — the perfect place to charm his way into San Marino high society.
“And he was passing out hymnals … going to the free lunches and joining the city club and meeting all the regulars,” said Vanity Fair reporter and “48 Hours” consultant Mark Seal, author of “The Man in the Rockefeller Suit”.
“He was handing out business cards that said, ‘Thirteenth Baronet of Chichester’ and it had the — the crest, and he would hand out a business card and kiss the ladies’ hands,” Seal explained. “… and pretty soon he’s a member of the community.”
So much so that he started making elaborate plans for the city, none of it setting off any alarms among the trusting folk.
“I remember Chris coming over and saying, ‘I can get a chapel. We have a chapel on our property in Europe, and I’ll have it sent over — ” the woman explained.
” — the Chichester Cathedral, no less,” a second woman added with a laugh.
“Did you believe it at the time?” Moriarty wondered.
“I thought, ‘Fabulous. That will look so perfect right here,'” the first woman said.
“Police say that you are a con artist, a con man. What do you — call yourself?” Moriarty asked “Clark Rockefeller”.
“Did I con? Who did I con?” he asked defiantly.
“If not a con artist, what would you call yourself?” Moriarty continued.
“Steve Badrowski … is an absolute literary genius. He came up with the word – confabulator,” “Rockefeller explained. “Confabulations — harmless inventions of fun that don’t really hurt anyone,” he explained dramatically.
“So you don’t believe you hurt anyone,” said Moriarty.
“I don’t think so,” he replied.
It was through friends at church that “Chris Chichester” reportedly met wealthy divorcee Ruth Sohus, better known as Didi. Didi had a small guesthouse in the backyard of her San Marino home. Legally, she wasn’t allowed to rent it out, but the 65-year-old had been running out of money. So when she let “Chichester” move in, it had to be their secret. That suited her new tenant just fine.
“No one ever knew what house he lived in,” one of the ladies told Moriarty. “He told me he was living in the second house from the corner on Lorain and West,” said another. “He told me he lived on the corner,” said a third woman.
But all the while, he lived in the guesthouse where authorities believe he turned from con man to killer.
“John Sohus, Didi’s adopted son … and Linda, his soon-to-be bride … were low on money, they moved into Didi’s house,” Seal explained.
“Christopher Chichester’s living in the back … in the guest house. …John is a computer nerd, a ‘Star Trek’ fanatic. Linda’s six feet tall, a strawberry blonde artist who loved horses and painted fanciful unicorns.”
While the young con man was living in their backyard, John and Linda got married and made plans to move out on their own. For more than two years Didi, John, Linda and “Chichester” seem to have coexisted without a peep.
“Did she ever express any concern about the tenant?” Moriarty asked Linda’s best friend, Sue Coffman.
“Nothing,” she replied.
“But your memory is that she thought he was creepy?” Moriarty asked.
“Yeah. Or just kind of like — just unsavory. Like she didn’t want anything to do with him,” said Coffman.
Asked how well he knew John and Linda Sohus, “Rockefeller” said “I mean, I — I knew them sort of. But not really.”
“Well, you were living in that guest house for almost two years while they were living with – John’s mother,” Moriarty reasoned.
“Yeah — yeah, they– they didn’t talk to me,” he replied.
It was early February 1985 when something very strange happened: John and Linda Sohus disappeared. At first, no one was really worried. Just days before they vanished, Linda told several people that she and John were going off on a secret government mission to New York.
“Did Linda tell you what government agency was hiring her husband?” Moriarty asked Coffman.
“She just said, ‘the government and it’s top secret and I can’t tell you anymore,'” Coffman replied.
“At any point did Linda seem worried about this trip to New York or — about this job that her husband was – offered? And she didn’t say how he got offered the job?” Moriarty continued.
“No. That’s — that’s what’s — you know, in hindsight it’s like, ‘Why didn’t I ask more questions?’ But I didn’t know she was gonna disappear,” said Coffman.
The real story wouldn’t come out until 28 years later, when the State of California put “Chris Chichester,” also known as “Clark Rockefeller,” on trial for the murder of John Sohus. The prosecutor believes he also killed John’s wife, Linda.
“I don’t think it was murder he was interested in. It was getting away with murder,” Kirn said. “You know, he was a fan of Hitchcock and film noir … he was steeped in the literature and the cinema of murder.
“And a lot of these movies he saw have a plot in which somebody who thinks they’re very smart commits the perfect crime,” Kirn continued.
“And it makes fools of everybody else, because they get to go forth with this secret that no one else will know…”
Efforts to get to that secret are met with resistance. During their interview, whenever Moriarty got a little too close to the man who calls himself “Rockefeller,” he frantically tries to get “48 Hours” producer Judy Rybak to stop her.
“Judy. Judy … we gotta stop this,” “Rockefeller” called out. “You know, you gotta stop that Erin. It’s too adversarial, Erin. Judy, let’s — let’s– let’s discuss that.”
“Rockefeller” even tries to walk out of the interview. “Unfortunately, Erin, we gotta stop it. It’s not going the way I had hoped,” he said.
But Moriarty kept him in his chair long enough to ask: “Did you kill John Sohus?”
AKA CHRISTOPHER CROWE
Sometime in May1985, four months after Linda and John Sohus vanished from San Marino, “Christopher Chichester” did the same. About a month after that, 3,000 miles away in Greenwich, Conn., “Christopher Crowe” appeared … once again, in church.
“He gravitates to the most exclusive Episcopal church there … Christ Church. … And he’s passing out hymnals and meeting the locals,” author Mark Seal explained. “He was very smart to launch his lives at churches, because, you know, people at churches tend to believe. …He meets the minister’s son. … Chris Bishop is an aspiring filmmaker … and they became friends.”
Twenty-seven years later, at the trial, Chris Bishop took the stand to describe the man he knew as Chris Crowe.
Prosecutor: What projects was he working on when you met him?Chris Bishop: According to Chris, he was — the executive producer of the new “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” series.
In the 1980s, the classic series from the ’50s was remade.
Sure enough, there was a Christopher Crowe in the credits. Of course it wasn’t the same Chris Crowe, but no one seemed to question the 24-year-old’s story.
“…he had studied up on whatever he was trying to do, enough to get away with it,” said Seal.
Nor did anyone question him when, two years later, the “television producer” evolved into a bond trader on Wall Street.
“In New York City, he met a man who worked for Nikko Securities, and he was actually hired to lead an entire department of corporate bond salesmen,” said Seal.
“Didn’t you have to lie to get that job?” Moriarty asked “Rockefeller”.
“Not necessarily,” he replied.
Richard Barnett was hired to work under “Crowe”, who claimed to be royalty.
“He was hired, you know, simply because of his name,” Barnett explained. “He said his name was — Christopher Crowe Mountbatten. Mountbatten is — is related to the Queen.”
“When did you start having questions about his abilities?” Moriarty asked.
“Actually fairly — fairly soon,” Barnett replied. “He didn’t understand … the basic elements … of what a corporate bond was all about.”
“You took a job with a securities company — as the head of — a corporate bond department with absolutely no experience,” Moriarty pointed out to “Rockefeller”.
“Uh-huh .Corporate bond department,” he affirmed. “And produced a huge profit.”
“The people who worked with you said you didn’t know what you were doing,” said Moriarty
“Well, that’s their opinion. I, nonetheless, produced a huge profit,” “Rockefeller” replied.
According to Barnett, “[He] never sold a bond.”
“How unusual is that?” Moriarty asked.
“Impossible,” he replied.
It took the better part of a year, but “Crowe” was finally fired from Nikko.
Meanwhile, back in California, Didi Sohus died heartbroken, believing her only son, John, had abandoned her. Shortly afterward, “Chris Crowe” of Connecticut did something that would eventually put “Chris Chichester” of San Marino back on the radar in connection with the Sohus’ disappearance.
“He said – ‘Hey, I’ve got this pickup truck. It was a production vehicle on a movie that I made. I can’t use it. I don’t want it. Would you like it?'” Bishop testified.
“Crowe” gave Chris Bishop a white 1985 Nissan pickup. But when Bishop went to register it at the DMV, there was a problem. The truck belonged to the long missing John and Linda Sohus.
Police in San Marino wanted answers and asked the Greenwich police for help.
“The San Marino Police Department was looking to find out if the new owner of this — pickup truck that was connected to this missing couple had any information on where they might be. Because their case was still open,” said Lieutenant Dan Allen, who was a detective in Greenwich in 1988.
Within days, Det. Allen discovered that “Chris Crowe” was also “Chris Chichester” and was no longer in Greenwich. He had moved to New York City and talked his way into another job at a large brokerage house. He was living with a girlfriend, Mihoko Manabe, who hoped to marry him.
When Det. Allen called the number he had for “Crowe”, it was Manabe who answered.
“He said that he was– detective with the Greenwich Police,” Manabe testified.
“And that’s when she said ‘he’s not here.’ ‘So would you leave him a message?'” Det. Allen told “48 Hours”. “And she said she would.”
But over the next few days, with his girlfriend’s help, “Crowe” kept dodging Det. Allen.
“If you had nothing to do with the death of John Sohus, why wouldn’t you talk to Detective Allen?” Moriarty asked “Rockefeller”.
“Because Detective Allen never contacted me,” he replied firmly.
“He contacted … Mihoko,” Moriarty noted.
“Uh-huh. He never gave her a reason for the contact, did he?” Rockefeller asked.
“But you knew what they were there for,” Moriarty pressed. “You had no idea?”
“How would I know?” he replied.
But here’s what Mihoko Manabe said at trial:
“He told me that next time he calls, that, you know, he wasn’t there and that I didn’t know where he was,” she testified.
“He had told her I wasn’t a police officer, I wasn’t a detective. I was a hit man out to kill him,” Det. Allen told “48 Hours”.
“And she believed that?” Moriarty asked.
“And she believed that,” the detective replied.
Now that “Crowe” knew that the police were onto him, it was time, once again, to disappear –leaving Det. Allen at a dead end.
Asked if he ever met “Crowe” face to face or spoke with him on the phone, the detective replied, “No.”
Mihoko Manabe: Fairly soon after Detective Allen’s call, we moved to another apartment. … He grew a beard. … I helped color his hair. …We never came out of the building at the same time. … Always walked down different sides of the street.Prosecutor Balian: Whose idea was it to do all this?
Mihoko Manabe: It was his idea.
“Chris Crowe” laid low for about three years, and in that time a “Rockefeller” was born.
“According to … Mihoko Manabe … they went out to a restaurant … and he couldn’t get a reservation. And so he just said, ‘Rockefeller. My name’s Clark Rockefeller.’ Suddenly a table appeared. The name worked its magic, and would work its magic from that point forward,” said Seal.
BECOMING A “ROCKEFELLER”
“He wrote me a letter from his jail cell that I got just recently in which he claimed that his entire career in America was based on a novel he read when he was 10 — about somebody who came up in society through fraudulence,” former friend Walter Kirn said. “I think that might’ve been ‘The Great Gatsby.'”
“When you were growing up, did you get most of your ideas about America from watching movies and reading books? ” Erin Moriarty asked “Rockefeller”. “Books,” he replied… “I’m a big reader.”
“You once mentioned “The Great Gatsby”, Moriarty noted.
“Uh-huh. Yeah, that’s one of them,” he replied, seemingly reluctant.
And of course, there was television — “Gilligan’s Island” was a favorite show.
“Because it’s actually a religious show … and the characters represent the seven deadly sins. Gilligan is sloth. The Skipper is anger … The Professor is pride. Mary Ann is envy. Ginger is lust. … the millionaire’s wife is gluttony. And … the millionaire is — greed… ” he told Moriarty, who asked if his accent is modeled after Thurston Howell III.
“Thurston Howell III, yeah. … Yeah. I –picked it up unconsciously,” he replied.
“Because that was your idea of — what a blue-blooded American would sound like?” Moriarty asked.
“Perhaps unconsciously,” he said.
“We only saw the Clark that comes out on stage. But there was a lot of offstage time, when he was … dressing the set, making the props, adjusting the costume. I think he loved that,” said Kirn.
Sometime in 1992, his riskiest, most outrageous identity was unveiled when the congregation at Saint Thomas Church on New York’s swanky Fifth Avenue met “Clark Rockefeller.”
“He would carry around a security device that he said was connected to the Rockefeller offices because he was very paranoid about security and being kidnapped … which is pretty gutsy, because that church has real Rockefellers,” said Mark Seal.
It was through friends at church that “Clark Rockefeller” met a bright young Harvard business school student named Sandra Boss, while playing a game that, coincidentally, involved fake identities and murder:
Prosecutor: Are you talkin’ about the– the board game Clue?Sandra Boss: The board game Clue.
Prosecutor: Who did you go as?
Sandra Boss: I was Miss Scarlet.
Prosecutor: OK. Was the defendant in character?
Sandra Boss: Yes.
Prosecutor: Who was he?
Sandra Boss: He was Professor Plum.
Boss and “Rockefeller” quickly became an item and later moved in together. She says she simply accepted his odd and eccentric behavior.
Sandra Boss: He refused to set foot on the soil of Connecticut because it was an evil state and that was where his parents had died. So even if we had to drive between Boston and New York he would not actually allow stops in the state of Connecticut.Prosecutor: What about to use the restroom?
Sandra Boss: That was not done. One waited. (laughs)
While a “Rockefeller” courted his soon-to-be wife in New York, back in San Marino, the mystery of John Sohus’ disappearance was about to take a sharp turn.
“The owners of Didi Sohus’ house at 1920 Lorain, decide to put in a swimming pool. And during the excavation of the pool, the bulldozer operator struck something hard. … and it turned out to be human bones,” said Seal.
The gravesite was directly behind the guest house where a young man named “Chichester” once lived.
“The body was found — it was inside of — a fiberglass container,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Detective Tim Miley explained. “Inside the container, the arms, legs and torsos were wrapped in Saran Wrap. Hands were covered in bags. And the — the hands, feet, and head were covered in plastic bags.”
The remains were so decomposed that they couldn’t be officially identified and the coroner wouldn’t rule it a homicide.
The TV show “Unsolved Mysteries” recreated the scene and even posted a picture of “Christopher Chichester”, calling him a person of interest.
But no one called in with a tip.
“And when they didn’t get anything back from that, then the case just went cold again,” Det. Miley told Moriarty.
“But who was then the main… person of interest at the time the body was found?” she asked.
“They were lookin’ at both Linda Sohus … the wife … and Christian Gerhartsreiter,” Det. Miley replied.
Gerhartsreiter was now hiding out in plain sight as “Clark Rockefeller” and telling everyone that he had just inherited what they would all come to believe was a multimillion dollar art collection. Writer Walter Kirn remembers the first time he laid eyes on it.
“Standing unframed against the walls are what must have been $50, $60 million worth of Mark Rothkos, Jackson Pollacks, abstract expressionist masterpieces,” he told Moriarty.
That artwork was one reason that Kirn never doubted Rockefeller — until years later when the whole world would learn that the art was expertly forged.
“You wouldn’t guess that the man is fake, the art is fake, the name is fake, everything, you know?” said Kirn.
Shortly after the art appeared, Sandra Boss married her Rockefeller.
Prosecutor: Who supported your family financially after you got married?Sandra Boss: I did.
Prosecutor: Who controlled the finances?
Sandra Boss: Umm, the defendant.
Kirn met the couple in 1998, when the marriage was already in trouble.
“I remember sitting there thinking, ‘This is a sad marriage. They don’t love each other,'” Kirn recalled. “It didn’t seem like a happy place.”
But they stayed together, and even had a daughter. In 2001, Reigh Storrow Rockefeller was born. But five years later, Boss filed for divorce and when things got contentious, her husband’s con finally unraveled.
“I found out in August of 2007 that he was not Clark Rockefeller,” Boss testified.
She hires a detective and he goes, ‘We can find absolutely nothing on this individual. We don’t know who he is,” Seal explained. “It was like he had materialized outta thin air.”
“He called me up around Christmastime. And he said, ‘I just lost my daughter in a divorce, Walt. I don’t think I’m ever gonna be able to see her again. My wife’s taking her to England,'” said Kirn.
On July 27, 2008, FBI Agent Tammy Harty got a call from headquarters that a Rockefeller living in Boston had kidnapped his 7-year-old daughter during a supervised visitation.
“The social worker tried to prevent it,” Agent Harty said. “And he was dragged by the vehicle and was injured during the course of the abduction.
For six days “Rockefeller” eluded even the FBI, by changing his identity once again.
“He has set up an elaborate new identity in Baltimore, as Chip Smith, the high sea ship captain who has a daughter named Muffy,” said Mark Seal.
“It was very apparent that this was a well-thought-out abduction, that he had planned this for a long time,” said Agent Harty.
But it all came to an end when a real estate agent in Baltimore saw the fake Rockefeller on the news. She realized he was the man she had just sold a house to. The FBI surrounded that house, and when they were certain the child was safe, they arrested her father without incident.
At his kidnapping trial, the world met Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter — a young German immigrant who had come to America as a young man and created a life that was complete fiction.
Gerhartsreiter was tried and convicted, although his defense team argued that their client was delusional and actually believed he was a Rockefeller. But that’s not the man Federal Agent Tammy Harty met the night he was arrested:
Agent Harty: Did it ever open up doors for you?“Clark Rockefeller”: Oh, plenty. Are you kidding? Everywhere. … It was amazing. Works like a charm. Try it sometime. (laughs) I’m serious. No, it works like a charm.
“He knew, ‘I’m not a Rockefeller. I’m not Christopher Crowe. I’m not Count Mountbatten’, or whoever that was,” Agent Harty told Moriarty with a laugh.
Asked if he’s dangerous, Agent Harty said, “Yes. I have no doubt that he killed John Sohus. I have no doubt that he killed Linda Sohus.”
In California, detectives Tim Miley and Delores Scott were also convinced Gerhartsreiter killed Linda and John and were working against the clock to prove it before he could serve his time on the kidnapping charge and then disappear … again.
INVESTIGATING A COLD CASE
Unmasked at last, Christian Gerhartsreiter now has a new identity: inmate number 2800458.
“Which persona did you like the most? Who did you like being the most? Clark Rockefeller?” Moriarty asked Gerhartsreiter.
“Umm, no. No, no, no, no. Let — let’s not get into that again. Erin, Erin, Erin –”
“Well, because we’re talking about how you would put on these personas, that it was fun,” Moriarty explained.
“Let’s go back to the trial testimony. That’s why we’re here,” he said.
Gerhartsreiter, aka “Clark Rockefeller”, was serving a four-to-five year sentence for kidnapping his daughter when he was suddenly on the move again. He was hauled from a Massachusetts prison to a California jail, where he would now face charges for the murder of John Sohus.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives Tim Miley and Delores Scott led the cold case investigation.
“Did you know what you were getting into when you first started this investigation?” Moriarty asked the detectives.
“No. We had no idea how bad it was. How difficult it was gonna get,” Det. Miley replied.
“No,” Det. Scott said. “It took four years. Four years of our lives, right?”
The detectives had to determine exactly how John Sohus died. The problem was all they had to work with was the victim’s skull and it was in pieces and had to be reconstructed by a special lab in Hawaii.
That’s when forensic pathologist Dr. Frank Sheridan was finally able to determine how John Sohus had died. He had been viciously bludgeoned.
Asked how he could tell, Dr. Sheridan told Moriarty, “Partly it’s based on looking at the edges of the fractures, the dark appearance.”
Dark edges, says Dr. Sheridan, mean the fractures occurred at the time of death and not when the body was unearthed.
“Decomposing scalp, blood, can sink down in the fracture lines and that’s one of the indications that these fractures occurred shortly before death,” he explained.
“How many time do you think John Sohus was hit here?” Moriarty asked, as she and Dr. Sheridan examined the skull.
“In this area here, I believe at least twice,” he replied. “… it takes a fairly fair amount of force to cause this kind of injury.”
But now, how to prove the killer was Gerhartsreiter? Sohus was buried just feet from the guest house where Gerhartsreiter once lived and his body wrapped in plastic bookstore bags traced to colleges that Gerhartsreiter had attended. Yet no DNA, no fingerprints belonging to the defendant were found.
“But you have to understand that obviously the bags and the body have been underground for nine years … and dirt just decomposes everything,” Det. Scott explained.
“Right, but you’ve got a jury that might say reasonable doubt,” Moriarty noted.
“All we can do is put on the best case we can,” said Det. Miley.
In an Los Angeles courtroom in March 2013, Gerhartsreiter went on trial for the murder of John Sohus.
Gerhartsreiter insists he didn’t kill John or Linda Sohus. He says Linda is alive. “No. Absolutely not,” he adamantly tells Moriarty when asked if he killed Linda Sohus, whose body has never been found. “She’s around somewhere.”
Gerhartsreiter’s defense is that Linda Sohus is the one who killed her husband and is alive and hiding from authorities. The proof: postcards, in Linda’s handwriting, that were sent to her family and friends from Europe after she disappeared. But to Walter Kirn, this was classic Gerhartsreiter.
“The postcards were such an ingenious move, you know what I mean? Your common murderer doesn’t try to cover a crime that way…” he told Moriarty.
Like a scene from a Hitchcock thriller, Kirn says, the defendant carefully concocted the couple’s disappearance.
“To me, one of the most convincing piece of evidence was the stories they told about going off on a secret mission …going off on a secret mission was a Clark idea,” he said. “Now obviously, that was to prepare people not to look for them, to prepare people for their absence.”
After nearly three decades, Linda nor her body have been found.
“Isn’t it possible that Linda’s out there just under a different name doing what Chris did?” Moriarty asked Det. Scott.
“No, everything points to her being deceased,” she replied.
Detective Miley says that Linda couldn’t have sent the postcards. DNA taken off the stamp doesn’t match Linda’s, but it also doesn’t match the defendant.
“That proves that he has the ability to have someone send a postcard from Europe when he is not there,” he explained.
John Sohus’ younger sister, Ellen, attended the trial every day and says there is no way that Linda would have killed her brother.
“Linda and John, if you could have seen them together, it would be very hard for you to believe that she would have done anything to hurt John,” she told Moriarty.
Ellen says there is far more evidence that points to Gerhartsreiter.
“All the things I learned about how he changed identities, trying to sell my brother’s truck, covering up all those things,” she said.
“Gerhartsreiter says Didi gave him the truck. You don’t believe that?” Moriarty asked.
“No,” Ellen replied. “… she didn’t touch the bedroom that they slept in. All of his stuff and Linda’s stuff was left untouched. She wouldn’t have done that and given the truck away.”
“This truck was in my possession for three-and-a-half years with its license plates attached, unaltered, unchanged, in excellent condition. Why would a person who is aware of criminal liability preserve evidence?” Gerhartsreiter asserted to Moriarty. “Answer that.”
Lieutenant Dan Allen of the Greenwich Police Dept. answered.
“No way, no way,” he said. “It wasn’t out in the open as far as I could determine. … no one ever saw that white pickup truck.”
And how did he miss someone burying the body right behind Gerhartsreiter’s house, when according to trial testimony, it would have taken the killer several hours?
“If Linda in fact killed her husband — wouldn’t you have seen her burying the body? ” Moriarty asked.
“Well, if you believe that I am home every single second, that I never leave my house,that I never go out at all, that I don’t go away on — on weekends,” he reasoned.
“But wouldn’t you notice the ground was dug up?
“It was not a very well-kept property, let’s put it that way,” said Gerhartsreiter.
As the case goes to the jury, Gerhartsreiter is feeling confident.
“I believe it because I know for a fact that I did not do this. I know that for an absolute fact,” he said.
“Sitting in that courtroom … waves of anger would come over me,” Kirn said. “… every minute I was sitting there, I was going ‘Please jury … find him guilty. He did it. He did it.'”
As a packed courtroom gathered to hear the verdict in the murder trial of Christian Gerhartsreiter, the man who once called himself “Rockefeller” looked confident, while prosecutor Habib Balian seemed nervous.
“He’d conned so many people for so many years, you always worry that, OK, this might be his one last con and he’s going to escape justice,” said Balian.
Writer Walter Kirn, who wrote a book, “Blood Will Out”, about his former friend, attended the trial for The New Yorker Magazine.
“I deferred to the old-time court reporters who were there around me and they said, ‘Oh, he’s gonna get off.’ … ‘Why do you say that? The evidence is so circumstantial.’ … ‘one of the victims is missing.’ … ‘She might still be out there.’ ‘Maybe she did it.’ … ‘They can’t establish a motive…” Kirn said. “These people had me convinced that, you know, this was gonna be Clark’s greatest magic trick.”
Ellen Sohus and another brother, Chris, were just as worried.
“I was very worried that — those key pieces would be enough to create doubt,” said Ellen.
But in the end, the jury finds Christian Gerhartsreiter guilty of first-degree murder in the death of John Sohus.
“I started to cry,” Ellen said, “because we finally got justice.”
But it’s a bittersweet victory, because a painful question still remains: where is Linda Sohus?
“Do you believe then that Christian Gerhartsreiter also killed Linda?” Moriarty asked Ellen and Chris Sohus.
“Yes,” Ellen replied.
“Yeah, I believe she probably met a similar fate to my brother,” said Chris.
“Do you think we’ll ever know what happened to Linda?” Moriarty asked.
“Not unless he decides to confess,” Chris replied.
Curious about how the jury felt about Linda Sohus, Moriarty had the opportunity to ask the foreperson:
“Did you feel Linda had anything to do with it?”
“I — I didn’t,” the foreperson replied.
“So did you believe at the end of the trial that if Christian Gerhartsreiter killed John, he probably killed Linda too?”
Asked if he thinks we’ll ever really know what happened to Linda Sohus, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said, “I hope so.”
“Was justice done in this case?” Moriarty asked.
“Yes and no. There’s no real justice in a murder case. … You’ll never bring back a victim,” Sheriff Baca replied. “But, we’re happy we solved this case. And the ingenuity of the homicide detectives and all their colleagues on the federal and local level — are to be cheered for this.”
At his sentencing, Gerhartsreiter addressed the judge PASSIONATELY: “Your Honor, I can only say once again — that I — I want to assert my innocence and that I firmly believe that the victim’s wife killed the victim.”
“That emptiness is evil,” Kirn told Moriarty. “It’s that lack of feeling, using everybody as a tool, everybody as a way to get your will, is as close to a definition of evil, of monstrousness, as I can come to.”
“You really think he’s a monster?
“I think he’s a monster. I think he’s a monster,” said Kirn.
The sentence: 25 years to life. The day Moriarty spoke with Gerhartsreiter, he had just been sentenced:
“I can’t speak for the jurors’ decision. Half of them were probably — too stupid to understand — reasonable doubt. The other half were probably too lazy to even think about what’s been presented and just wanted to get out of here,” he said. “This will be overturned. Make no mistakes about this. So, it’s just a minor inconvenience until then. That’s all it is.”
“Rockefeller” fired his lawyers and filed a motion for a new trial. It was denied.
His daughter is now 12 years old and living with her mother abroad. She has no contact with her father.