Saturday, 2:15 PM
Grand jury probing disappearance of couple who knew 'Rockefeller'
One item the grand jury may examine: A happy postcard from a vacationing couple to a friend or evidence of a coverup?
By Eric Moskowitz, Globe Staff
A grand jury is probing the 1985 disappearance of a couple from San Marino, Calif. who lived on the same property as the man who calls himself Clark Rockefeller, according to a newspaper report.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office has convened a grand jury to investigate the disappearance of John and Linda Sohus, the Pasadena Star-News reported, citing a source close to the investigation. Los Angeles County officials have described Rockefeller, whose real name is Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, as a "person of interest" in the case.
The district attorney's office declined to comment to the Globe. "We can't confirm or deny secret grand jury proceedings," said spokeswoman Jane Robison.
But handwriting analyst Katherine Koppenhaver said this afternoon that she had received a written subpoena this week from the grand jury seeking any documents or records she has related to the Sohus case.
Gerhartsreiter, 48, is heading toward a May 11 trial in Suffolk Superior Court on charges of kidnapping his daughter, Reigh Storrow Mills Boss, last summer and fleeing with her to Baltimore. The case drew international headlines because of revelations that Gerhartsreiter had used several aliases over the years and had traveled in high society. His lawyer has said he is planning an insanity defense. The case took on sinister overtones when questions were raised about his possible role in the disappearance of the Sohuses.
Koppenhaver was one of three handwriting experts contacted by the Star-News in August to examine a postcard purportedly sent from France by Linda Sohus after her disappearance. Some have questioned whether the postcard was part of a scheme to cover up murder. The experts were asked to compare the postcard with a sample of her handwriting. One expert believed the postcard was authentic, Koppenhaver and another expert believed it was written by someone else.
The postcard is a colorful clue in the mystery surrounding Gerhartsreiter.
Gerhartsreiter's lawyer, Jeffrey A. Denner of Boston, said he had learned about the grand jury in phone calls from California journalists.
"Mr. Rockefeller had absolutely no role whatsoever in the disappearance of anyone in California, including the Sohuses," Denner said. "He absolutely maintains his innocence in that matter. The fact that there's a grand jury now considering evidence doesn't mean that they're going to return a bill of indictment."
Reports last summer that California authorities had declared Rockefeller a person of interest have obviously concerned his client, Denner said. In that regard, the convening of a grand jury may ultimately be a relief.
"Rather than having this simply hanging out there, we're pleased that now the grand jury is going to have to reach some decision," Denner said. "The state of California is going to have to fish or cut bait. Mr. Rockefeller has nothing to fear from this grand jury process if they do their jobs correctly."
"Anyone would be concerned if they were being investigated for murder, but since he did nothing wrong, he's not overly concerned," Denner said.
Denner said in February that Gerhartsreiter would speak with California authorities about the disappearance of the Sohuses if he were granted immunity from prosecution in the case.
Rockefeller lived in 1985 in a guesthouse in San Marino while the recently married Sohuses lived with John Sohus's mother, Didi, in the main house, according to relatives, friends, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
In 1994, workers digging a pool on the property discovered bones believed to be those of John Sohus, but neither Linda Sohus nor her remains have been found.
Jonathan Saltzman and Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report.