Ted Fitzgerald/Pool Photo/2010
The man who called himself "Clark Rockefeller," whose case drew national attention when his mysterious past was exposed during a parental child abduction case in Massachusetts, is now facing charges in a 1985 murder in California, Los Angeles County prosecutors said today.
Christian K. Gerhartsreiter, 50, a German national, has been charged with the murder of John Sohus, 27, of San Marino, Calif., prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said in a statement they had filed a felony complaint in Alhambra Superior Court seeking the con man's arrest and extradition from Massachusetts, where he is currently serving a four-to-five-year sentence for kidnapping his daughter during a custody dispute.
Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office, said authorities want Gerhartsreiter in California to face charges as soon as possible.
She said the process could take up to two months to complete. Authorities "believed it was time to file and itís been more than 20 years that the victim's family has had any justice," she said.
Robison declined to describe the evidence that led prosecutors to file charges and wouldn't say whether investigators are looking at Gerhartsreiter for the disappearance of Linda Sohus, who vanished at the same time as her husband.
The couple went missing in early 1985. Shortly after they disappeared, a man named Christopher Chichester who lived in the guest house behind the Sohus home in San Marino, also vanished, prosecutors said. Investigators believe "Chichester" was Gerhartsreiter.
In May 1994, a body was discovered buried in the backyard of the Lorain Road home. The remains were later identified as those of John Sohus. He had suffered blunt force trauma to the head, prosecutors said.
Ellen Sohus, John Sohus's younger sister, said she received a call from Los Angeles authorities earlier this afternoon telling her about the charges against Gerhartsreiter.
"We feel like that this has been a very, very long ordeal over the last 25 years and it gives us hope that we will have closure, finally," she said in a telephone interview from her home in Arizona.
The statement by prosecutors today was the first time they had acknowledged that they had determined the remains found in the yard belonged to John Sohus.
Gerhartsreiter's lawyer, Jeffrey Denner, who represented him during his kidnapping trial, said his client is innocent.
"I have no doubt that Mr. Rockefeller ... isn't even remotely involved in this very, very violent crime," he said. "I am surprised. This is a 26-year-old murder and they didn't have enough to indict him [before]. I'm very curious to see what has changed."
Deputy District Attorney Habib Balian will ask for bail of $10 million for Gerhartsreiter when he is arraigned, the prosecutors said in their statement.
Gerhartsreiter was convicted in Suffolk Superior Court in 2009 of parental kidnapping and aassault and battery with a dangerous weapon. He had snatched his 7-year-old daughter, Reigh, from a social worker during a supervised visit in Boston's Back Bay area on July 27, 2008.
The case drew national publicity because of the frantic, international manhunt for Gerhartsreiter and the little girl. Interest in the case was heightened after revelations that Gerhartsreiter had adopted multiple identities and claimed an aristocratic pedigree after his arrival in the United States.
The story took a more sinister turn when, in August 2008, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department declared him a "person of interest" in the disappearance of the Sohuses.
Ellen Sohus said that because there was a gag order placed on the investigation, she did not know until today that police had determined that the bones were her brother's.
But, she said, "We knew in our hearts that it was my brother."
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