By Jonathan Satlzman and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
Sandra Boss testified today that she knew her former husband as Clark Rockefeller, a man of great privilege and intellect who grew up in a lavish Manhattan townhouse, a property that websites show has an ornate stone Medusa carved over the front entrance and is worth more than $12 million.
During their courtship, Rockefeller told her that he was the son of George Percy Rockefeller and Mary Roberts, his father a member of the prominent Rockefeller clan, and his mother from the upper neck of Virginia. Boss testified today during her former husband's parental kidnapping that he claimed to have grown up a block from the East River at 19 Sutton Place, a residence described in a 2003 real estate article in The New York Times as a "trophy" home offering "a level of civility … not available anywhere else in the city.'' The four-story, 3,919-square-foot townhouse is nearly a century old and worth more than $12 million today, according to Zillow.com.
"It's a very nice townhouse," Boss said during her testimony today in Suffolk Superior Court. "It's a nice block."
Rockefeller's stories of childhood opulence were reinforced, Boss said, by a four-member family who lived near Sutton Place and claimed to be his relatives. The matriarch of the family claimed to be Rockefeller's maternal aunt. When Boss met them, she said, they discussed other family members, including a mutual relative named Isabella. Boss said nothing more about the family during her testimony and it was not immediately clear who they were.
The Rockefeller family has said since his arrest last August that this man is not one of their relatives. Prosecutors claim that he is Bavarian-born con man named Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, 48, who has used a slew of aliases and upper crust identities over the past 30 years to ingratiate himself into tony circles in the United States. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to kidnapping and other charges. He is accused of abducting his 7-year-old daughter during a supervised visit last summer following a bitter divorce.
Boss testified today that Rockefeller told her that as a 2- or 3-year-old he fell down the stairs at Sutton Place and hit his head, an accident that left him mute because of a condition called aphasia. He claimed, according to Boss, that he had to be home schooled because of his condition, but was so intelligent he was admitted to Yale University at age 14.
Rockefeller told her that his parents drove to see him in New Haven when he was 18, in the spring of his last year at Yale, Boss testified. Rockefeller claimed that he had convinced them to drive their sports car that day, instead of a larger car they owned, which might have handled better on the slick roads. With his mother behind the wheel, they crashed and were both killed, Rockefeller claimed, according to Boss.
With his parents dead, however, Rockefeller said he managed to return to Sutton Place, living alone in the multimillion-dollar townhouse, Boss testified.
To reconcile why he had so little money despite his rarefied upbringing, Rockefeller told his wife another story. Rockefeller claimed that his father had worked for Navy and when he died a substantial amount of money had gone missing. His father had been wrongly accused of embezzling money, Boss recounted, and Rockefeller's inheritance had been tied up in a lawsuit.
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