After years of posing as a member of the wealthy Rockefeller family, Christian Gerhartsreiter, or “Clark Rockefeller,” as he was known to friends, colleagues and even his ex-wife and child, has been charged in a Los Angeles court with the 1985 murder of his former landlord’s son. The victim’s skull was unearthed from the cement lining of a swimming pool in a ritzy southern California suburb. To make matters worse, Clark is currently serving four years in Massachusetts for kidnapping his own daughter, but that sentence won’t stand in the way of the California prosecution.
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Christian Gerhartsreiter is charged with the homicide of John Sohus in violation of California Penal Code section 187. In California, homicide convictions can include the death penalty if there are aggravated circumstances surrounding the killing. However, the Los Angeles District Attorney has not included aggravated circumstances in its charges, so the most severe punishment Gerhartsreiter can expect to face would be life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Unfolding much like the plot of the film Catch Me If You Can, the criminal investigations and prosecutions of Christian Gerhartsreiter, known to many, including his ex-wife, as Clark Rockefeller, have taken turns no one could have predicted. An elaborate con artist, Gerhartsreiter passed himself off in elite circles as a member of the British aristocracy, a USC film student, a prominent television producer, and in his final con, as a member of the Rockefeller family. He perfectly played the role of the aristocratic eccentric who was paranoid about his privacy but always hinting at vast family wealth.
In truth, he was a virtually uneducated man from a small town in Germany — and, according to Los Angeles prosecutors, the man responsible for a murder case that went cold over 20 years ago.
His wife of 12 years, Sandra Mills Boss, was also taken in by the charade. While his wife worked at a lucrative job in finance, he wined and dined the wealthy residents of Manhattan, Boston and Cornish, New Hampshire. Everywhere he went, he was greeted as Mr. Rockefeller. Everyone knew him — or they thought they did.
Gerhartsreiter claims he never told anyone outright that he was a member of the Rockefeller family, but his every word and deed led those around him to believe he was associated with the wealthy American family. He surrounded himself with the trappings of wealth and privilege, from memberships at exclusive clubs to an expensive art collection. He took himself a tad literally at times — apparently his favorite dish was Oysters Rockefeller.
After kidnapping his daughter following a separation from Boss that left him with no custodial claim to the child, he used his connections to lead the authorities on a wild goose chase spanning the globe. Every person the FBI interviewed thought Gerhartsreiter was somewhere else, and every lead was another dead end. When the FBI finally nabbed him in Baltimore, Gerhartsreiter was taken into federal custody in Boston, Massachusetts, tried and ultimately convicted of kidnapping his daughter. He is now serving a five-year sentence in Massachusetts.
However, while this prosecution was pending, the Los Angeles County District Attorney was notified that Gerhartsreiter had been the tenant of a guest house in swanky San Marino, California at the time homeowners John Sohus and his wife, Linda, had gone missing.
In San Marino in the 1980s, Gerhartsreiter went by the name Christopher Chichester, a supposed member of the British monarchy. He charmed the country clubbers of the wealthy Southern California suburb and told everyone he was a television producer. He was living at the Sohus family’s guest house at the time of the abrupt disappearance of Linda and John Sohus in 1985.
Gershartsreiter reportedly told people that John and Linda Sohus had unexpectedly traveled to Europe. In the late 1980s, Gershartsreiter was pulled over by police in Connecticut driving a pickup truck that belonged to John Sohus, but he left the area before police could interview him. The case went cold, as police had no evidence that the Sohuses were dead or had not left voluntarily.
Almost ten years later, a bag of human bones was found in the cement of the Sohus home’s swimming pool, and forensic testing identified the bones as John Sohus, who died from blunt force trauma to the head. Once merely a “person of interest” in the disappearance of the Sohuses, Gerhartsreiter now finds himself accused of murder.
Christian Gerhartsreiter – A German immigrant and con man who posed for decades as a member of the Rockefeller family.
Jeffrey Denner – Gerhartsreiter’s Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer.
Reigh Storrow Mills Boss – Gerhartsreiter’s daughter whom he kidnapped. Gerhartsreiter nicknamed her Snooks, and by all accounts was a devoted father.
Sandra Mills Boss – Gerharsreiter’s wife of 12 years, a prominent executive.
John Sohus – The alleged homicide victim, a San Marino, California man who, along with his wife, mysteriously disappeared in 1985 and whose remains were discovered almost a decade later.
Danielle Menard – Gerhartsreiter’s defense attorney in the California case.
Raw Video: ‘Rockefeller’ Convicted Of Kidnapping
This truly bizarre case has utterly captivated us, but we don’t know what to make of the Los Angeles district attorney’s homicide case against Gerhartsreiter. Certainly the guy is a Class A weirdo and an unprincipled liar of the first order, but is he a killer?
The main evidence against Gerhartsreiter is his flight following the death of Sohus. He left town quickly, telling the San Marino crowd who doted upon him that a wealthy relation in England had died, and he was needed to help settle the estate, of course. He took Sohus’ car across the country, where law enforcement found him in Connecticut. He managed to evade capture and soon established himself in a new identity in upscale Greenwich, Connecticut.
The motive for the killing is murky, if it exists at all. The killing took place so long ago that reliable testimony will be hard to find, and Gerhartsreiter has maintained his innocence vehemently throughout the California proceedings. Perhaps the prosecution will claim that Sohus learned that Gerhartsreiter was a pretender and was threatening to tell the world who he really was? It’s a good theory, but given the ease in which Gerhartsreiter could reestablish a new identity wherever he went, it seems unlikely that he would go so far as to kill someone over the threat of exposure.
Plus, at the preliminary hearing, the prosecution offered no motive whatsoever, while the defense proffered the theory that Linda Sohus may have had a reason to kill her husband. With a 27-year-old case, it will be nearly impossible to figure out what actually happened. Memories fade, and witnesses become lost or pass away.
It’s a strange case that keeps getting stranger! We will be watching this one with a close eye and keeping you updated.