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Rockefeller impostor dismisses Boston attorneys

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, 52, found guilty in April of murdering his landlady's adult son, will represent himself before his sentencing. A judge warns him that it will be difficult.

June 20, 2013|By Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times
  • Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter is shown shortly after his verdict was read in April.
Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter is shown shortly after his verdict was read… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

A convicted killer who once masqueraded as a member of the Rockefeller family dismissed his team of Boston attorneys Thursday and will represent himself before his sentencing.

Asked by a judge his reasons for representing himself, Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter replied: "New information we found about the victim's wife."

A Los Angeles jury in April found Gerhartsreiter guilty of murdering his landlady's adult son, John Sohus, who vanished from San Marino in February 1985, as did his wife, Linda. Gerhartsreiter left San Marino soon afterward, resurfacing on the East Coast under a series of new names, including Clark Rockefeller.

Gerhartsreiter, 52, was accused of bludgeoning John Sohus, 27, in the head with a blunt object. The body was buried behind a guesthouse on the Lorain Road property, where the couple lived with John's mother in the main house.

Linda Sohus, who disappeared at age 29, has never been found. Authorities checked databases containing 30 billion records for some sign that she had opened a bank account, received mail or created any other kind of paper trail. Gerhartsreiter's attorneys argued that she could have been the killer — a notion several jurors said they quickly dismissed.

Gerhartsreiter appeared in court Thursday wearing a blue jumpsuit and a smile, crossing his legs at the defense table and greeting the prosecutor.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli warned Gerhartsreiter that representing himself would be difficult and said he did not recommend dismissing his lawyers, who were on speakerphone from Boston.

"It is not advised to do that," Lomeli said. "You will go up against an experienced district attorney.... You're not going to get any kind of a break."

Lomeli told Gerhartsreiter he could not use the dismissal of his attorneys as a "delay tactic" to put off sentencing for an unreasonable amount of time.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Habib Balian said the Sohus family "wants a resolution to this case" and is ready for closure.

Gerhartsreiter's sentencing hearing, initially set for next week, was rescheduled for August. He faces 27 years to life in prison.

Gerhartsreiter told the judge he will file a motion for a new trial, saying he thought Balian improperly argued that Gerhartsreiter also killed Linda Sohus. Gerhartsreiter was not charged with her murder.

"New information has come forward concerning the possible whereabouts of the victim's wife, and I need to understand where she might have been," Gerhartsreiter said.

The judge said he did not think Balian made that argument but that Gerhartsreiter will be able to review transcripts of the three-week trial, in which more than 40 witnesses testified.

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