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LINDA & JOHN SOHUS - CHRISTIAN GHARTSREITER ON TRIAL FOR MURDER

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Mar 30 13 7:12 PM

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The conman with numerous aliases is now on trial for the murder of John Sohus, and is suspected in the disappearance of Linda Sohus. Christian Gerhartsreiter has pled NOT GUILTY to murdering John Sohus (27) in 1985. Nine years after John & Linda Sohus disappeared, a construction crew for the new owners, building a swimming pool on the property discovered a fiberglass container in the dig area with plastic bags containing John Sohus' remains. Although Linda Sohus was never located, authorities presume her to be dead.
 
2008 - Christian Gerhartsreiter, using the name of Rockefeller as one of many alisases was
arrested for kidnapping his and his wife's 7 year old daughter. He was convicted and serving 4-5 years in prison.

2011 - Christian Gerhartsreiter was close to the end of his prison term for kidnapping his young daughter when the murder charge was lodged against him.
 
2012 -
During his preliminary hearing last year, Gerhartsreiter's defense attorneys asked a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge if they could continue to call him Clark Rockefeller, since that was
the name the attorneys knew him by. The judge denied the request. Gerhartsreiter is in custody
 in Los Angeles in lieu of $10 million bail. Gerhartsreiter faces 26 years to life in prison if convicted on the murder charge.


BACKGROUND ON CHRISTIAN GERHARTSREITER

2013 - March 3-
OPENING STATEMENTS

DEFENSE:
Attorney Brad Bailey
" Over the next few weeks, you're going to learn about a case that is quite old, once quite cold...
 but involves a story that is still untold."
 
"After all of the evidence is heard, this old, quite cold and still untold case will still be a whodunit."
 
Prosecutors will portray Gerhartsreiter as an "odd guy," but that he was "not much else."
Their case is based on "scant and circumstantial" evidence that will prove little more than that
my client acted bizarrely, opted not to cooperate with police and frequently changed his name, "as if our client were the first person in this city to try to reinvent himself."
 
"The defendant's aliases have nothing to do with Sohus' death, and that he is just one of many people who moved to Los Angeles to "reinvent themselves."

"Gerhartsreiter had acted similarly ever since he arrived in the country in 1978. But, my client's quirkiness does not make him homicidal and is not evidence of murder."

There is no direct evidence linking him to the slaying. Nobody saw the killing or the burial of
Sohus' remains and there is no fingerprint or genetic material pointing to my client as the
killer."

"I suggest the wife did it in what he called "a classic who-dunnit" with every piece of circumstantial evidence could point to Linda Sohus as the killer of her husband."


"Linda Sohus also acted strangely. In early 1985, she told varying stories about her and her husband's plans and where they were going. She had her own fake name, Cody."
 
"In addition, DNA tests on the postcards exclude Gerhartsreiter as being the person who licked the stamps but could not exclude Linda Sohus. There is as much evidence, if not more, that points to Linda Sohus at 6 feet tall, 200 pounds, as having attacked John Sohus from behind, covered her tracks and then vanished."

"Linda Sohus had her own fake name, her own fantasy world, and displayed odd and bizarre behavior in the weeks and days before she disappeared. Shut your eyes and envision whether
John Sohus's missing wife . . . sneaked up behind her husband and struck those vicious blows.He acknowledged that the defendant was "a strange guy," but he said Linda Sohus also acted
 strangely and may have had a motive to kill her husband.

"She vanished at the same time that he did in 1985, but no trace of her has been found. 
There are no witnesses to the killing or burial of Sohus, and prosecutors have little more evidence than the bizarre behavior and multiple identities of Gerhartsreiter to paint him as a murderer.
It's just as reasonable to conclude that John Sohus was killed by someone else...his still missing wife."

"There will be enough evidence for you to reasonably conclude it could have well been John Sohus's vanished wife Linda. If you believe that Linda Sohus could have killed her husband, John, in 1985, it would provide the reasonable doubt needed to acquit my client."


PROSECUTION:
Prosecutor Habib Balian
 "Ladies and gentlemen, the evidence will show that John and Linda Sohus are dead."

"Circumstantial evidence leaves no doubt that Christian Gerhartsreiter was the killer.
I will prove a cold-case murder allegation against Gerhartsreiter, who spent years moving through U.S. society under a series of aliases, most notoriously posing as a member of the fabled Rockefeller family."
 
EVIDENCE: Photo of the construction site on premises of San Marion property. Photo shows property and container embedded within the dirt.
     
"The criminal complaint states Sohus was killed between Feb. 1, 1985 and Feb. 28, 1985 with a "blunt object." Linda Sohus (pictured, right, with John Sohus) has never been located.After the couple's disappearance, Sohus' mother began receiving postcards written to appear as though

they were from her son and his wife. The postcards were part of a ruse to convince the Sohus
family that the couple had left for France."

"John and Linda Sohus were drawn together by their love of science fiction and were married on Halloween in 1983. John was shy and smart, a perfect complement to his wife, an extrovert who dreamed of becoming a professional artist.The couple struggled financially, living week to week, but they were happy together, in love and excited about the future. Life was looking up for this young couple. They were married for a little more than a year when they disappeared.
 
"They did not act as though they were leaving for good. They left none of the obvious markers that people unfailingly produce in a digital age, including credit records, utility bills, driver's licenses.
They left behind some of their most cherished belongings, including Linda's portfolio of fantasy artwork and a brand-new pickup truck. In addition, they had made concrete plans to attend a science fiction convention with Linda's best friend in March 1985."

"Ruth Didi Sohus, was devastated. She had believed her son had abandoned her at the end of her life, had taken off. But her quiet, smart son who adored science fiction and fantasy was buried in his
own backyard."

"In the next few months, police were alerted to the missing couple and repeatedly visited their
home on Lorain Road. They noticed the mysterious man in the guesthouse."

Christian Gerhartsreiter was born in Bergen, Germany, longed to become a big-time movie producer, and arrived in the United States in 1978. He experimented with different personalities
in high school in Berlin, Conn. He is a fabulist, a liar who made up extravagant stories about being a famous film director, the heir to a South African fortune and a descendant of British royalty. The defendant passed around business cards announcing himself as the 13th Baronet of England and once used the name Mountbatten.

"Gerhartsreiter moved to Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee from 1979 to 1981 and then landed in San Marino, ­Calif., an affluent community, where he mixed in, attending the local church and functions where fine wine was served and classical music was played."

"In the early 1980s when he was known as Chris Chichester -- one of several aliases. He claimed he was related to Sir Francis Chichester, a famed British adventurer, and even passed out business cards identifying him as a Chichester relative. You will learn that the people of San Marino believed him -- he convinced them."

" Gerhartsreiter lived as a tenant in the guesthouse at 1920 Lorian Road, owned by Didi Sohus, John Sohus's mother. Soon afterward, the newlyweds moved ­into the main house at that ­address."

"In early February 1985, as the couple were making plans to attend a science fiction convention in Arizona, Linda Sohus told a friend that her husband was ­being considered for a secret government job and that she could possibly make a contribution as well. She indicated that they needed to go
to Connecticut for about two weeks but would be back in time for the Arizona trip."

"Gerhartsreiter had given the Sohuses the idea that they could possibly land the jobs doing secret
 work for the government. Clearly they never went on this trip. John was buried in the back yard. The defendant told Linda a convincing lie.

A frequent visitor to film classes at USC, Gerhartsreiter lent the couple's truck to a film student for
 a couple of months. Three postcards from the couple that appear to have been written by Linda
e- mailed to friends and family from France. But records, he show the couple never left the country.  Gerhartsreiter was using someone to mail the postcards for him in an effort to throw off the police.
He was creating an illusion that John and Linda were away."

"Gerhartsreiter also tried to sell an Oriental rug that one person noticed appeared to have a bloodstain on it. When asked about the stain, he never denied it was blood but simply rolled
up the rug and left, Balian said. One neighbor recalled black smoke with a putrid smell coming from the chimney of the guesthouse where he was living. She called to ask him to stop. He told her he was burning carpet."

"Gerhartsreiter told a friend who asked about the disturbed earth in the backyard of the Lorain Road home that there were plumbing problems. But that section of the yard never had plumbing."

"It was in the same area in 1994 that John Sohus' remains were found, buried 3 feet deep, in
plastic bags on May 5, 1994, when new owners began excavating the back yard to build a pool."

"John's skull was found wrapped in two plastic bags, one inside the other. The first was a USC bookstore bag with logo from the early 1980s,  a school Gerhartsreiter had attended.
The second bag bore a ­logo used by the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee from 1979 to 1982, when Gerhartsreiter was a student there."

EVIDENCE PHOTOS: Photos shown of the bones/bags recovered from property.

"The person whose skull was found in the backyard suffered large blows to the
head with a hard, blunt object."
 
"Months after the Sohuses disappeared, Gerhartsreiter showed up in Connecticut with the Sohuses' truck, which he eventually gave to a friend. He changed his name, going by the last names of Crowe and Mountbatten, telling people he was a Hollywood producer. He avoided the police as they tried to question him about the missing Sohuses. He changed addresses, dyed his hair and eyebrows and even disposed of his trash in public places. He went on to call himself Christopher Crowe, Chip Smith, and most notably Clark Rockefeller, a pretender to the oil fortune.
The impostor worked his way into high society and talked his way into important jobs. He married a wealthy woman but his identity unraveled when he kidnapped their daughter during a custody dispute. "

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Mar 30 13 7:29 PM

TRIAL TESTIMONY

WITNESS: Joseph Leeman (Boston police Detective)
                   Chronicled Gerhartsreiter's immigration history from Germany age 17
                   to the U.S.; use of multiple names
 
Pasadena Star News 
WITNESS: Jose Perez (Heavy Equipment Operator/Swimming Pool Contractor)
 
The prosecutor displayed pictures of the skull and detached jawbone for a jury 
 
In 1994 my father and I discovered human remains. We called police. "We were all kind of freaked out."
 
Pasadena Star News
WITNESS: Manuel Munoz (Then Coroner 1994) Eamined evidence and bones.
"John Sohus, died after being struck at least three times in the head by a blunt object.

WITNESS: Frank Sheridan (Forensic Pathologist; Chief Medical Examiner for San Bernardino County)

"It is a significant amount of force. It wasn;t a light tap. Any one of these three blows would have rendered him unconscious. The resulting skull fractures were adequate enough to cause death
and would have likely created a bloody scene."

Sheridan used a laser pointer and described the various regions of John Sohus's skull. Fractures to Sohus' head were created by "a significant amount of force" from a blunt, possibly curved object
I personally examined the skull removed from the San Marino back yard, paying special attention to the fracture edges. When the actual injuries happened, the victim was still alive but died very quickly afterward. The skull was pieced together after it was found by workers excavating for a pool. Each blow to the head would have rendered the victim unconscious. It was not a light tap.This is a major blow.... I have no doubt these are fatal injuries."

EVIDENCE: Photos of Sohus' skull showed fractures in the front, and a large portion of the back right side appeared crumbled, with some pieces of bone missing.

WITNESS: Linda Hausladen (University of Wisconsin -Milwaukee Bokstore)
 A plastic bag bearing the logo of the Uof WM, was only in use from 979 to 1982.

Prosecutor Balian: Gerhartsreiter was a student there during that time.

WITNESS: Lynne Herold (Criminalist for LA County Sheriffs Dept./ attended USC) The other bag said Trojan Stores USC. It was from a campus bookstore.

"Other witnesses testified that Gerhartsreiter often visited the USC film school and said he was a student there."

"Crime scene investigators found four bloodstains on the floor of the guesthouse. The bloodstains were not visible to the naked eye but chemical tests showed the blood was wiped while it was still wet. One of the stains was 25 inches wide. The technology to identify whom the blood in the guesthouse belonged to did not exist at the time I examined the scene. It is still unknown how long the blood had been there, whom it belonged to and whether it is human blood."

The shirt found with Sohus' body had six cuts caused by a sharp instrument while he was still alive. The cuts, she said, were to the left shoulder of the shirt and the left elbow, suggesting Sohus' arm was raised when the cuts were inflicted or that he was cut from behind."

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