During a telephone conversation in 1988, a friend asked Christian Gerhartsreiter a simple question: “Who...are you?”
Christopher Bishop, testifying in Gerhartsreiter's murder trial Tuesday, said he became suspicious of his friend after a detective investigating a missing persons case came looking for Gerhartsreiter, who at the time was going by the name Christopher Crowe.
Gerhartsreiter didn't answer Bishop's question. “I’ve gotta go,” Bishop quoted him as saying as he hung up the phone. Bishop said he never heard from Gerhartsreiter again.
Prosecutors allege that Gerhartsreiter was trying to avoid meeting the detective because he did not want to answer questions regarding the missing couple, John and Linda Sohus, who disappeared from San Marino three years earlier.
They allege that Gerhartsreiter killed John Sohus and buried his body in the backyard of a San Marino home where all three had lived. Sohus’ remains were dug up in 1994. By then, Gerhartsreiter had resurfaced on the East Coast as Christopher Crowe and, later, Clark Rockefeller.
Bishop, who is now an Episcopal priest, told jurors he was a film student living with his parents in Greenwich, Conn., when he met Gerhartsreiter, who said he worked in the film industry and was the executive producer of the television show “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.”
Gerhartsreiter offered Bishop a white Nissan pickup truck, which he told Bishop was a production vehicle. Gerhartsreiter told Bishop he would give him the truck for free but that it had no title and that Bishop would have to contact the California Department of Motor Vehicles, Bishop recalled.
When Bishop tried to register the truck, he discovered it had a lien on it, he said.
The truck had belonged to the Sohuses.
When authorities learned of the truck’s whereabouts, they sought to interview Gerhartsreiter. Greenwich. Police Lt. Daniel Allen, who at the time was a detective assisting San Marino police, went to Bishop’s parents’ home, and Bishop lied about having the truck because he “was in a state of mind of fear.”
But he recognized the photo of a young man that Allen showed him, he said. It was the man he knew as Crowe. “At that point, I was pretty panicked,” he said.
“This was a person who I had trusted, who had spent dinner with my family, who knew where I lived,” Bishop added.
Allen testified last week that despite his efforts to find Gerhartsreiter, he “never met him face-to-face.”
Defense attorney Brad Bailey has said that his client may have been evasive and tried to avoid Allen, but that did not prove he was a killer.
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