Rockefeller impostor's murder trial: Closing arguments set to start

April 08, 2013|By Hailey Branson-Potts

Christopher Chichester, the USC student. Christopher Crowe, the Wall Street bond trader. Clark Rockefeller, the member of the famous family.

The different aliases are those of one man: Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter.

For the last three weeks, both the prosecution and defense in the murder trial of German-born Gerhartsreiter have highlighted his numerous fabrications and use of false identities. Both are using his history of deceit to their advantage in the case, which revolves around the 1985 killing of his landlady's adult son in San Marino.

FULL COVERAGE: Rockefeller imposter on trial

Both sides are expected to present their closing arguments Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court after three weeks of testimony from dozens of witnesses. 

Prosecutors say Gerhartsreiter, 52, killed John Sohus -- an avid science fiction fan who had been married a little more than a year -- and buried his body. In 1994, construction workers digging a pool in the backyard of the home where Sohus and his wife, Linda, once lived found John Sohus' bones wrapped in plastic and buried three feet deep. 

Gerhartsreiter -- known to the Sohuses as Christopher Chichester -- lived in the guesthouse of the home the couple shared with John Sohus' mother. The couple vanished in 1985, and Gerhartsreiter left San Marino soon afterward, several witnesses testified. Linda Sohus was never found.

Gerhartsreiter's use of false identities has taken on added importance to the prosecution, which is hampered by a lack of DNA or other strong forensic evidence connecting him to the killing, as well as by the faded memories of witnesses.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Habib Balian has argued that Gerhartsreiter went to extreme lengths after the killing to hide his true identity from authorities, particularly when he realized detectives wanted to talk to him.

But defense attorneys point to their client's long history of fictional tales, saying they were part of a pattern that began as soon as he arrived in the United States, years before the killing.

"They've proven that he's a strange guy, an odd guy, a guy who may have tried to get things from other people, like meals and housing, but not much else," attorney Brad Bailey told jurors.

Gerhartsreiter is in custody in Los Angeles in lieu of $10-million bail.


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Fake Rockefeller case: Ex-San Marino police officer testifies

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