Police probe Clark Rockefeller’s ties to California cold case

By Carol Eisenberg

August 12, 2008 at 12:19pm

The man who calls himself Clark Rockefeller and who is being held on charges of abducting his 7-year-old daughter, has no inherited wealth, as it turns out, let alone any tie to the late oil baron’s family.

Instead, he is a humbly-born, former exchange student from Bavaria named Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, who came to this country as a high-school student more than 30 years ago, Los Angeles police confirmed yesterday. He is also a “person of interest” in a California couple’s disappearance more than two decades ago, police said.

Gerhartsreiter adopted another name, Christopher Chichester - and a British accent - when he was living in San Marino, Calif. in the mid-1980s, according to Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives “are confident that Rockefeller is Christian Gerhartsreiter and the person named Christopher Chichester who was living in the Los Angeles area in 1985,” Whitmore told the Associated Press.

Whitmore described Gerhartsreiter as a “person of interest” in the 1985 disappearances of Jonathan and Linda Sohus, then young newlyweds. Using the name Chichester, Gerhartsreiter had rented a guesthouse at the home of Jonathan Sohus’ mother, Ruth “Didi” in San Marino, a wealthy Los Angeles suburb.

Jonathan and Linda Sohus were living with Ruth Sohus when they vanished. Ruth Sohus died of a heart attack several years later.

In 1994, workers digging a backyard pool for the new owners of the Sohus home discovered human remains. No charges have ever been filed in the disappearance case. Police had long searched for Chichester, who tried to sell a truck registered as belonging to Jonathan Sohus in Greenwich, Conn. in 1988. But by the time police identified the truck, he and the vehicle had vanished.

Rockefeller’s attorney Stephen Hrones said yesterday that his client acknowledged using several different names, including Chichester and Christopher Crowe while working on Wall Street. Previously, Hrones had said his client remembered only “bits and pieces” of his life prior to 1993.

Hrones also said yesterday that Rockefeller acknowledged having a passing acquaintance with the Sohuses, although he denied knowing anything about their disappearance.

“He was aspiring to be an actor out there,” Hrones is quoted by the Associated Press. “He was trying to get into the acting business and he thought it was a more appropriate name.”

“There is nothing wrong with using aliases as long as you don’t use it to defraud,” said the attorney, who added that Rockefeller also remembers using the alias, Christopher Crowe, while working on Wall Street.

However, Hrones said his client does not recall growing up in Germany as Christian Gerhartsreiter, and that he maintains “Rockefeller is his real name.”

The account of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office appears to jive with that given the Boston Herald by Alexander Gerhartsreiter of Berlin, Germany, who identified Rockefeller as his long-lost older brother who had moved to the U.S. as a high-school exchange student, but who had been out of touch with his family since 1985.

“It seems you found my brother,” Gerhartsreiter told reporters after being handed photos of Rockefeller. “It is really a shock. That is definitely him.”

The man known as Rockefeller has been charged with kidnapping his daughter, Reigh Storrow Boss, during a supervised visitation July 27 in the Back Bay section of Boston. It was his first visit with his daughter since an acriminous divorce late last year from his wife Sandra Boss, a partner at McKinsey & Company.

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