Appeals court upholds convictions of man known as Clark Rockfeller

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter was escorted into a California courtroom in January for a preliminary hearing in his California murder case. Eric Grigorian for The Boston Globe

A Massachusetts court has affirmed the convictions of Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, the con man who called himself Clark Rockefeller.

The Massachusetts Appeals Court today upheld Gerhartsreiter’s convictions on charges of parental kidnapping and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon.

Gerhartsreiter’s kidnapping of his own daughter on July 27, 2008, sparked a nationwide manhunt that ended about a week later when he was arrested by the FBI in Baltimore.

Soon after, questions began to arise about the man who called himself a “Rockefeller’’ and a bizarre tale of a human chameleon began to emerge, a young man who had immigrated to America from Germany and assumed various identities over a number of years.


The story took a dark twist when questions were raised about the disappearance of a young couple in California in the 1980s. Gerhartsreiter, who called himself Christopher Chichester at the time, occupied the guest house of the young man’s mother. Gerhartsreiter was charged in March 2011 with killing John Sohus in San Marino, Calif., in 1985.

The three-judge panel of the appeals court today rejected a variety of challenges by Gerhartsreiter, including claims that his right to a fair and impartial jury had been violated by pretrial publicity, that the trial judge had improperly admitted certain testimony, and that the evidence on the assault and battery with a dangerous weapon charge was insufficient.

“The judge was required only to determine whether the jurors could exclude all matter not properly before them at trial, and decide the case fairly according to the facts presented and the instructions on the law given to them,’’ the court said in an opinion written by Justice R. Malcolm Graham.

“Here, the judge, through a careful voir dire process, was able, without inordinate difficulty to empanel jurors who appeared to be impartial. We have no reason to assume that those who expressed impartiality were misleading the judge or mistaken about their own ability to judge fairly,’’ the opinion said.


Gerhartsreiter was sentenced to four to five years in prison on the Massachusetts charges.


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