‘Rockefeller’ imposter pleads not guilty to California murder charge

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter stood with his attorneys in court on Friday in Alhambra, Calif.
Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter stood with his attorneys in court on Friday in Alhambra, Calif.

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter today appeared in a Los Angeles courtroom where he pleaded not guilty to charges that he murdered his landlady’s son while posing as Christopher Chichester in the 1980s.

John and Linda Sohus on their wedding day.LA County police

“We’re all relieved that the case is now moving forward,’’ said Brad Bailey, a Boston attorney who is representing Gerhartsreiter in California along with Jeffrey Denner. He “certainly looks forward to getting his day in court. As he has from the start, he continues to maintain his innocence.’’

Gerhartsreiter said little in court yesterday except to confirm that he was waiving his right to a speedy trial, that is a trial within 180 days of the arraignment.

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Bailey said he and Denner, who received three boxes containing about 9,000 pages of discovery, need more time to prepare for trial.

Bailey said he was not aware of any family members or friends who showed up to the hearing on Gerhartstreiter’s behalf.

Gerhartsreiter is currently being held at Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles, Bailey said.

On the East Coast, Gerhartsreiter masqueraded for years as “Clark Rockefeller,’’ a fraud that was uncovered when he was prosecuted for the parental kidnapping of his daughter, Reigh, in Boston in 2008.

Since being unmasked as the fake Rockefeller, investigators have tied Gerhartsreiter to San Marino, Calif., where he was using the Chichester identity in the 1980s. At the time, he was living in a guesthouse while his landlady’s son, John Sohus, was living in the main house.

Both John and his wife, Linda Sohus, disappeared in 1985 — as did the house guest, Chichester.

In 1988, Gerhartsreiter, using the name Christopher Crowe, surfaced in Greenwich, Conn., driving John Sohus’s pickup truck. He allegedly told Connecticut police that John Sohus had sold him the vehicle, the Globe has reported.

In 1994, when new owners of the Sohus home were building an in-ground pool, human remains were found in the backyard that Los Angeles County authorities identified as John Sohus earlier this year. No trace of Linda Sohus has been found, but California authorities believe she, too, is dead.

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