LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Testimony wrapped up Wednesday in the trial of a German citizen who went by a number of aliases and allegedly murdered the son of his San Marino landlord 28 years ago.
Christian Gerhartsreiter, who passed himself off variously as an English nobleman, “Clark Rockefeller” or another personage, told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli outside the presence of jurors that he would not testify in his own defense.
Gerhartsreiter, 52, is being tried for the February 1985 slaying of John Sohus, who lived at 1920 Lorain Road with his wife, who disappeared about the same time. Gerhartsreiter, known then as Christopher Chichester, lived in a guest house.
The judge told jurors to return to court Monday for closing arguments and jury instructions.
Sohus’ remains were uncovered in May 1994 by an excavation crew preparing to build a swimming pool on the property for a new owner.
The prosecution rested its case after jurors heard from Gerhartsreiter’s ex-wife, Sandra Boss, who testified that she thought her former spouse “lied pretty consistently.” She said a private investigator she hired during their divorce proceedings determined that Gerhartsreiter had not gone to Yale — as he had claimed to her he had at age 14 to study math. She said she now believes that his account that he had also gone to Oxford is “highly unlikely.”
The defendant’s ex-wife — who described her marriage as “very unpleasant” — testified that she told Gerhartsreiter she was unhappy in their marriage and wanted to leave him, telling jurors he said she would never see their daughter again if she went through with a divorce.
“He controlled all the bank accounts and he monitored all my transactions,” Boss said of her ex-husband, while noting that she was making about $1.2 million a year in 2004 while working for a management consulting firm. “It was impossible to oppose my ex-husband’s wishes without severe consequences.”
Boss testified that she knew Gerhartsreiter as Clark Rockefeller. They met in 1993, she said, and never saw him with any form of photo identification or a Social Security card.
“He told me that he was part of the Rockefeller family,” she said, noting that he claimed he could get a master key to Rockefeller Center.
In his opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Habib Balian told jurors that Sohus and wife Linda are dead. He said Gerhartsreiter faked their disappearance to cover his tracks.
Gerhartsreiter is not charged in Linda Sohus’ disappearance, but the prosecutor said the German national arranged for postcards to be sent from Paris to family members and friends to give the appearance that they were traveling abroad.
One of Gerhartsreiter’s attorneys, Brad Bailey, suggested that the postcards prove Linda was alive and that she, rather than his client, might be her husband’s killer. Two witnesses called by the defense testified that they examined handwriting samples from Linda Sohus and said they believed she wrote the postcards.
Handwriting examiner Sheila Lowe testified that she compared known samples of Linda Sohus’ handwriting with the postcards, saying that she believed they were “written by the same person.”
Barbara Torres, a forensic document examiner for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, testified that there was substantial evidence to indicate that the postcards were written by the same person as the known samples of Linda Sohus’ writing.
Under cross-examination by the prosecutor, both witnesses said that they could not say if the postcards were written in San Marino or Paris, whether anyone else was there at the time or under what circumstances the postcards had been written.
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