LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Prosecutors told jurors on Monday that circumstantial and physical evidence prove a German citizen who went by a number of aliases and later passed himself off as a member of the Rockefeller family murdered the son of his San Marino landlord 28 years ago.
Christian Gerhartsreiter, 52, who has also passed himself off as an English nobleman, is charged in the February 1985 slaying of his landlady’s son, John Sohus, whose wife Linda disappeared about the same time.
Gerhartsreiter, known then as Christopher Chichester, lived in a guest house on the 1920 Lorain Road property. Sohus’ remains were uncovered in May 1994 by an excavation crew preparing to build a swimming pool on the property for a new owner.
“Not only did the defendant kill John Sohus, … all the evidence indicates that he killed Linda Sohus,” Deputy District Attorney Habib Balian told jurors during closing arguments of Gerhartsreiter’s trial in downtown Los Angeles. “You’re going to be left with one singular, reasonable truth, … (Gerhartsreiter) killed John Sohus,” the prosecutor said.
Balian scoffed at a defense assertion that Linda Sohus killed her husband, saying the couple were in a loving relationship and were planning for their future. Balian said Linda Sohus was “not criminally sophisticated” enough to carry out a murder and dispose of the remains, noting that the woman was primarily known for “painting unicorns and fairies.”
“She’s dead, ladies and gentlemen. She’s dead,” Balian said. Gerhartsreiter is not charged in Linda Sohus’ disappearance, but during the trial, the prosecutor alleged the defendant 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.
Balian insisted, however, that Gerhartsreiter was solely responsible for John Sohus’ death.
“There’s only one person who’s a mastermind,” he said.
The prosecutor said the strongest evidence of Gerhartsreiter’s guilt are two bags that were used to wrap some of the skeletal remains that were unearthed in the San Marino backyard — one from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee and one from the USC bookstore.
“How many people went to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Southern California and also lived at 1920 Lorain Road?” Balian asked. He conceded that criminal defendants are always presumed innocent until proven guilty. But he told jurors that they could also presume that it’s “snowing in L.A.”
“As soon as you walk outside, the presumption will be overcome,” he said, urging the panel to rely on their common sense and convict the defendant.
Defense closing arguments were expected later today.
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