Reporting Mary Bubala
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — He was caught in Baltimore five years ago after kidnapping his young daughter. Now the man who once posed as part of the Rockefeller family is on trial for murder in Los Angeles.
Mary Bubala explains how his time here connected him to that case.
Christian Gerhartsreiter has lived most of his life conning others with fake names and fantastic tales. He was a Rockefeller, a Mountbatten, a British baronet.
“He passed out business cards saying he was Christopher Chichester, the 13th baronet, with his family crest,” prosecutors said.
Now Gerhartsreiter is on trial for the murder of John Sohus. He and his wife Linda vanished in 1985 when Gerhartsreiter was living in their guest house.
The bones of John Sohus were found buried in the backyard, his fractured skull wrapped in plastic bags from the suspect’s alma mater.
Investigators wanted to question Gerhartsreiter but he was long gone, setting up a new life with a new wife in Boston.
“He’s basically a guy who brought of lot of people into a con. He conned the upper echelons of American society. This is not the guy that you typically see in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom facing a murder charge,” said Frank Girardot, author, “Name Dropper.”
But investigators traced him to the cold case murder after his arrest in Baltimore in 2008.
Gerhartsreiter had kidnapped his 7-year-old daughter from Boston during a bitter divorce. Authorities say he had set up a new identity–Chip Smith–a professional yacht captain, and settled into a Mt. Vernon townhouse.
The Baltimore real estate agents who sold him his new home recognized his photo on the morning news, as an FBI manhunt was underway.
“Investigators used this as a ruse to lure Clark from the apartment to the marina by placing a call to him and telling him his boat was taking on water,” police said.
Gerhartsreiter was sentenced to five years for kidnapping his daughter and then extradited to California, where he faces up to 26 years to life if convicted of murder.
The FBI says Gerhartsreiter grew up in Germany and came to America when he was just 18.
His daughter now lives with her mother in London.