April 10, 2013

“Rockefeller” convicted in CA murder case

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 10:23 pm

Linda & John Sohus

Today Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, who calls himself Clark Rockefeller, was convicted of murdering his landlord almost 30 years ago in California. After moving to the U.S. from Germany, Gerhartsreiter lived in a guest house owned by an elderly lady named Didi Sohus in San Marino, CA. Her son, John, and his wife, Linda, (pictured above) disappeared in 1985. In 1994, John’s body was discovered, cut up and stored in bags, in the backyard of the house as its new owners were building a pool. Linda has never been found. Rockefeller’s defense team suggested that Linda may have killed John. Although Rockefeller was seen burning carpet and borrowing a chainsaw, and the bags containing the body were from bookstores at two universities Rockefeller attended, there was no DNA, fingerprints, or evidence of what Rockefeller’s motive would be. The jury took only 5 hours to deliberate before convicting him of first-degree murder. He faces a sentence of 27 years to life in prison.

Suffolk County D.A. Dan Conley prosecuted Rockefeller in the case in which he first made headlines, the kidnapping of his young daughter, Reigh, from his ex-wife, Sandra Boss. Conley had this to say:

“Beyond his lies and tall tales, what we saw in this defendant was a shrewd and cunning offender. We saw a man who planned his crimes in advance and took great pains to escape accountability, just like the one convicted today in Los Angeles. Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter was a mystery until he was identified, located, and convicted for his crimes here. I speak for all of us involved in his prosecution here in Boston when I offer DA Lacey and her team my heartfelt congratulations for finding justice for Mr. Sohus and his loved ones.”

Additional coverage at the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, LA Times, and Vanity Fair.

Read The Freedom Bulletin‘s coverage of Rockefeller’s Massachusetts trial and his numerous identities, lies, and crazy stories here.

June 2, 2012

Clark Rockefeller’s appeal

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 7:27 am

Arguments took place yesterday in the appeal of Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, better known as Clark Rockefeller, before the Massachusetts Appeals Court. Rockefeller and his lawyer, Jeffrey Denner, are trying to overturn his June 2009 convictions of kidnapping and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Rockefeller, of course, kidnapped his then 7-year-old daughter after his ex-wife was awarded custody of her, and while escaping in a getaway car, caused injuries to the social worker who was supervising the visit.

According to news reports, the arguments Denner made in court yesterday include the following:

  • The government’s psychiatric expert was unqualified. At trial, Dr. James Chu diagnosed Rockefeller with a “mixed personality disorder,” which Denner said yesterday is not a real mental illness. “It was his opinion that Mr. Rockefeller, Mr. Gerhartsreiter, was somebody who could substantially appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct and could comport with the requirements of the law,” Denner said. “When you examine that you learn that he doesn’t really understand the standard, he doesn’t understand what mental illness is.”
  • The prosecutor’s closing arguments included prejudicial rhetoric. Assistant D.A. David Deakin told the jury not to let Rockefeller’s insanity defense “be the culminating manipulation in a lifetime of lies,” which according to Denner “crossed some lines” and “eviscerated” his defense.
  • The jury pool was prejudiced by widespread media coverage. This was certainly a high-profile case, and many news reports included information irrelevant to the Massachusetts case, such as allegations that he was involved in a 1985 murder in California, for which he is currently awaiting trial.

The appeal was heard by a three-judge panel, who have not indicated how long they will take to make a ruling.

Sources: Associated Press, Boston Herald

January 30, 2012

Clark Rockefeller: going to trial in CA

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 12:37 am

On Wednesday, Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, AKA Clark Rockefeller, learned that he will face a murder trial for the death of his landlord’s son in California. A preliminary hearing took place over five days last week and the week before in Alhambra Superior Court, CA, during which prosecutors presented their case and successfully convinced a judge that there was enough evidence to send Rockefeller to trial.

The young German immigrant, whose legal name was Christian Gerhartsreiter but who at the time went by Christopher Chichester, lived in a guesthouse owned by an older lady named Didi Sohus in San Marino, CA. Her son, John Sohus, and his wife, Linda Sohus, went missing in 1985. His remains were discovered on the property in 1994, cut up wrapped in plastic bags, and stuffed in a box; hers have yet to be found. Meanwhile, Chichester moved from place to place, taking on new names, creating increasingly elaborate and prestigious background stories for himself, and getting by either on the generosity of others or by doing the best he could at various jobs, given that he possessed few of the qualifications he claimed to have. This life unraveled in 2008, when, known as Clark Rockefeller and living in Boston, he was arrested for kidnapping his 7-year-old daughter, Reigh, after a bitter custody dispute with his ex-wife, Sandra Boss. After being convicted of kidnapping and beginning his sentence in a Massachusetts jail, he was indicted in the old murder case and sent to California.

Confused yet? Here is a recap of what we learned during the preliminary hearing:

Wednesday, January 18: Jose Perez, who was digging a pool at the former Sohus property in 1994, testified that his father uncovered a bag of bones, which he initially thought was the remains of a dog. Judith Day of the coroner’s office described how the bones, still clothed, were all separately wrapped in plastic. And Medical examiner Dr. Frank Sheridan said that Sohus’s death was caused by fractures on the right and front sides of the head, made by three blows with a rounded object such as a baseball bat.

Thursday, January 19: San Marino patrolman Thomas LeVeque testified that Didi Sohus believed her son and daughter-in-law were in Paris on a top-secret mission and would not tell investigators anything more, saying that doing so could put them in danger. As time went on and Chichester mysteriously moved away, Didi became more worried and even began drinking, according to her friend, Marianne Kent. She received a postcard that was supposed to be from Linda in Paris, but Lili Hasdell, another former police officer, testified that the handwriting did not match. And Judge William Stewart, who was an attorney and friend of Chichester, testified that he lent him a chainsaw. However, defense lawyers raised the possibility of another suspect, a real estate agent who helped Didi Sohus to sell her house and also did grocery shopping for her, drove her around, and spent a lot of time with her.

Friday, January 20: According to forensic scientist Lynne Herold, four bloodstains were found on the floor of the guesthouse where Chichester lived. The blood showed “wiping patterns,” but it was impossible to determine, with the technology available at the time, whose it was. Additionally, a t-shirt found with John Sohus’s remains had cuts that appeared to have been made by a sharp object.

Monday, January 23: John’s friend, Patrick Rayermann, testified that during a conversation shortly before his disappearance, John spoke of tensions with his mother, and feeling torn between staying with her and moving out with Linda. He also described John as “faultlessly reliable and said that neither he or Linda spoke of any definite plans to go off on their own. Lydia Marano, the owner of the bookstore where Linda worked, said that their relationship “made the rest of us smile” and called her “the most trustworthy person I had working for me.” Harry Sherwood, Didi Sohus’s grandson, said that he found John and Linda’s belongings strewn about, not consistent with a couple who were making a planned, long-term move. An acquaintance, Robert Brown, said that Gerhartsreiter asked him where to dispose of drums of toxic chemicals, saying he used them for his job at USC film school. And other witnesses said that he tried to sell them an oriental rug with a bloodstain on it.

Tuesday, January 24: Mihoko Manabe, who was Rockefeller’s girlfriend for 7 years in New York, when he went by the name Christopher Crowe, testified that he became paranoid after a detective called in 1988, looking for him. He grew a beard, had her die his hair, insisted on not walking with her in public, and planned to leave the country with her, telling her to stop communicating with friends and family and to receive mail at P.O. boxes.  He began to use the name Clark Rockefeller after discovering how respectfully he was treated when he used it. After he lost his job as a bond salesman due to his fake identity being discovered, Manabe supported him and got him a credit card under his new name. She described him as someone with “a temper, but not in a physically violent way…He could be very mean.” On the same day, his next-door neighbor in San Marino, Mary Cologne, said that she saw black smoke coming from his chimney one day, which smelled “terrible.” He said he was burning carpet.

The Boston Globe also has an interesting account of Rockefeller’s interview with the FBI after he was arrested in the kidnapping case.

With Sohus’s death taking place so long ago, some witnesses seem to have fuzzy memories, and it is doubtful there will be a lot of forensic evidence in this case. It will be interesting to see whether the circumstantial evidence, which was determined to be enough to establish probable cause, will be enough to convince a jury of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

July 8, 2011

Rockefeller arraigned in California murder case

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 10:32 pm

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, AKA Christopher Chichester, AKA Clark Rockefeller pled not guilty today to first degree murder in a California courtroom. He is charged with killing John Sohus, his landlady’s son, back when he lived in San Marino, CA, as aspiring filmmaker Chris Chichester. Sohus and his wife Linda mysteriously disappeared in 1985, and John’s bones were found in the San Marino home’s backyard in 1994. What happened to Linda is unknown.

Fifteen years later, while living as Clark Rockefeller in Boston, he was convicted of kidnapping his then 7-year-old daughter away from his ex-wife during a supervised visit. The 50-year-old Rockefeller was transferred earlier this week from a prison in Boston to a jail in California while he awaits trial in the new/old case. Jeffrey Denner, his lawyer from Boston, was with him at today’s arraignment, as well as Brad Bailey, from the same firm. They say that he maintains his innocence. The next hearing is set for August 16.

More coverage of today’s proceedings and the twists and turns of Rockefeller’s remarkable life, from the L.A. TimesBoston Globe, and Reuters.

May 19, 2011

Rockefeller agrees to go to CA

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 7:22 pm

Clark Rockefeller – born Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter – just agreed to go to California to face a murder trial. He was charged in March with killing his landlord 25 years ago. “The sole issue is identification and we’ve decided not to fight the issue of identity and let the process move forward,” said lawyer Brad Bailey. It could take three to eight weeks for Rockefeller to be transferred to California.

Source: Boston Globe

P.S. For those following the DiMasi trial, an update will be up later tonight!

March 15, 2011

Clark Rockefeller charged in California death

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 10:00 pm

Clark Rockefeller (born Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter) was charged today in the death of John Sohus, his landlord when he lived in California. John and his wife Linda went missing in 1985, and his body was found buried in his backyard in 1994. There has long been speculation about Rockefeller’s possible role in the disappearance. Today’s indictment accuses him of one count of murder, specifically with a blunt object.

Rockefeller, of course, is the man who made headlines in Boston after he kidnapped his young daughter from his ex-wife, and his secret life of false identities and tall tales was revealed. He is currently in prison in Massachusetts for his conviction in that case, but L.A. County prosecutors reportedly want him sent there to be tried on the murder charge.

Read more at: LA Times, Boston GlobeFox 25, and CNN.

August 6, 2010

Probation for sexual assault?

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 9:03 pm

On Wednesday, 19-year-old Armin Ruzbie pleaded guilty to assault and battery on a former classmate and was sentenced to four years of probation. Apparently, in 2007, Ruzbie entered the 16-year-old male classmate’s room with three friends, pulled his pants down, and sexually assaulted him while yelling at him and videotaping the assault. If he violates his probation, he will face the more serious charge of indecent assault and battery.

Is it just me, or does that sentence not seem harsh enough?

I mean, Clark Rockefeller was sentenced to 4-5 years in jail for kidnapping his daughter, whom he did not hurt, and causing minor injuries to a social worker. Alexander Pring-Wilson got two years in jail for killing someone in self-defense. People have gone to jail for possessing guns without a license, doing drugs, stealing, and drunk driving. Isn’t sexual assault worse than these things?

Although Ruzbie apologized for the crime and might have become a better person in the years since, what he did was extremely wrong and he deserves to be punished for it. His defense lawyer called the assault a “one minute act of adolescent stupidity.” When I think of stupid things that teenagers sometimes do, I think of silly fashions, cutting class, smoking, driving too fast…but deciding to basically rape a person who is sitting in his room and minding his own business is far beyond stupidity. Anyone who does that deserves a more severe punishment than probation.

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