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Published March 18, 2013, 01:02 PM

Rockefeller impostor on trial for murder

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles County prosecutor has told jurors he will prove that a man who impersonated a number of people including a Rockefeller murdered one of his neighbors a quarter-century ago.

By: LINDA DEUTSCH,AP Special Correspondent, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles County prosecutor has told jurors he will prove that a man who impersonated a number of people including a Rockefeller murdered one of his neighbors a quarter-century ago.

The prosecutor outlined a highly circumstantial case Monday against Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter which he said will prove the killing of a man who vanished in 1985.

He says bones found in a backyard in suburban San Marino will be identified as those of victim John Sohus.

But he has offered no motive for the killing.

Sohus' wife, Linda, also vanished but no trace of her has been found and Gerhartsreiter is not facing any charges related to her.

Gerhartsreiter was charged in California after being imprisoned for kidnapping his daughter during a custody dispute in Massachusetts.

A jury was to hear opening statements Monday in the cold-case murder trial of a German immigrant who spent years moving through U.S. society under a series of aliases, most notoriously posing as a member of the fabled Rockefeller family.

Seven women and five men were selected to hear the case of Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter (GAYR'-hahrtz-ry-tur), who was known for 20 years as Clark Rockefeller.

He has pleaded not guilty to the killing of John Sohus, 27, who disappeared with his wife, Linda, in 1985 while Gerhartsreiter — using an alias — was a guest cottage tenant at the home of Sohus' mother, where the couple lived.

The prosecution's case is circumstantial, based on a bag of bones found buried at the property and fuzzy memories of residents of San Marino, a wealthy Los Angeles suburb. They knew the defendant as Chris Chichester.

The defense says there was no motive for the defendant to kill anyone.

When Chichester suddenly vanished from San Marino, residents didn't connect him with the disappearance of the Sohuses.

For Gerhartsreiter, it was the start of an odyssey across America, using the names Christopher Crowe, Chip Smith and Clark Rockefeller, a pretender to the fabled oil fortune.

He was close to the end of a prison term for the kidnapping of his young daughter in a Boston custody dispute when the murder charge interrupted his chance to regain his freedom.

After a quarter century, Los Angeles County authorities realized the man in custody in Boston was not a Rockefeller heir but the man who had lived in San Marino decades earlier. While the unearthed bones were linked to John Sohus, no trace has been found of his wife.

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