LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Jurors today saw a portion of a videotaped interview in which a man accused of murdering a San Marino resident and burying the victim’s remains in his own backyard 28 years ago described himself as a “pacifist” who believes in “non-violence.”
“Did you kill John and Linda Sohus?” NBC reporter Natalie Morales asked during an August 2008 interview with Christian Gerhartsreiter, who also went by the names Clark Rockefeller and Christopher Crowe, among other aliases.
“My entire life I’ve always been a pacifist. I am a Quaker and I believe in non-violence and I can fairly certainly say that I have never hurt anyone,” Gerhartsreiter said.
The 52-year-old defendant is charged with murder for the February 1985 slaying of John Sohus. The 27-year-old man’s remains were found in May 1994 when a hole was being dug for a swimming pool at the back of the property at 1920 Lorain Road, where Gerhartsreiter had lived in a guesthouse for a time.
During his opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Habib Balian told the Los Angeles Superior Court jury that John Sohus and his wife, Linda, are dead and accused Gerhartsreiter of faking their disappearance to cover his tracks.
Gerhartsreiter is not charged in connection with Linda’s disappearance, but the prosecutor contended the German national arranged for postcards to be sent from Paris to the couple’s family and friends to give the appearance that they were traveling abroad.
One of Gerhartsreiter’s attorneys, Brad Bailey, has suggested that the postcards prove Linda was alive and that she, rather than his client, might be her husband’s killer. Gerhartsreiter sat down for the TV interview following his Aug. 2, 2008, arrest, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s Detective Timothy Miley.
In other testimony, Ralph Boynton told jurors that a police detective from Greenwich, Conn., tried unsuccessfully to speak with Gerhartsreiter — whom he knew as Christopher Crowe — at the office where both worked for a New York City investment banking firm in November 1988.
Gerhartsreiter didn’t show up to the office and requested an extended leave of absence, explaining that he had been busy and was “worried about his parents” because they were “in harm’s way, possibly being kidnapped by foreign entities,” the prosecution witness said.
He said he had not alerted Gerhartsreiter about the detective’s request.
“Did the defendant after you had contact with Detective (Daniel) Allen ever show up for work again?” the prosecutor asked.
“No,” Boynton responded, noting that the job could average $100,000 to $300,000 a year in commission for employees after they got past the probationary period.
Allen, now a Greenwich police lieutenant, said he tried to contact Gerhartsreiter after receiving a teletype from the San Marino Police Department to ascertain information about a vehicle connected to the missing couple.
The lieutenant said he tracked down a young man who told him that a man he identified as Chris Crowe had offered him the truck but didn’t have title to it.
“Was he able to get title?” Balian asked.
“No, he was not,” the lieutenant said, noting that there was a lien on the vehicle.
The police lieutenant said he tried to reach Gerhartsreiter at his office and spoke with a woman at another phone number, and asked that Gerhartsreiter contact him.
In testimony Wednesday, Gerhartsreiter’s former fiancee, Mihoko Manabe, told jurors that he changed his appearance and told her he had to go into hiding after the detective tried to reach him.
She told jurors that the man she knew then as Christopher Crowe told her the peron who had phoned identifying himself as a police detective “wasn’t really from the police — that I should disregard what he said.”
The prosecution witness testified that Gerhartsreiter described his parents as being in “great danger” and himself as being in danger, as well.
Manabe said Gerhartsreiter encouraged her to go into hiding with him, proposed to her and changed his appearance by growing a mustache and beard and starting to wear contact lenses instead of glasses after a Greenwich, Conn., police detective tried to reach him some time in 1988 at her home in New York City.
Manabe said she helped Gerhartsreiter — who had previously lived in Greenwich — color his hair and eyebrows blond, and that the two of them “always walked on different sides of the street” and got their mail from post office boxes. She also said Gerhartsreiter shredded any mail with addresses on it.
“Well, the situation was very strange,” she told the jury, noting later in her testimony that there was a “marked difference” in Gerhartsreiter’s behavior after hearing about the phone call from the detective, who called her home twice.
Manabe testified that she continued her relationship with Gerhartsreiter until 1994, when she met the man who is now her husband.
“I didn’t want to stay with him any more,” she said of Gerhartsreiter. “It was not a happy situation for me. It was not a good relationship.”
The prosecution has pointed to a string of lies by Gerhartsreiter, telling jurors that he posed at times as a member of the wealthy Rockefeller family, a Hollywood producer, British royalty and a USC film professor, lying even to his wife of 12 years.
Gerhartsreiter’s attorney, Bailey, acknowledged that his client had “undisputably, undeniably” used different names, but said he was hardly “the first person in this city to try and reinvent himself.”
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