• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Fake Rockefeller jailed for killing US landlord

The Local · 16 Aug 2013, 09:18

Published: 16 Aug 2013 09:18 GMT+02:00

Christian Gerhartsreiter, 52, was convicted in April of killing his landlord, John Sohus, who went missing in February 1985 together with his wife Linda.

The remains of Sohus were found nine years later in the backyard of his home in an upscale Los Angeles neighbourhood.

Prosecutors believe the German also killed Linda Sohus, but he was only charged with one murder.

When the couple vanished, Gerhartsreiter was living in a guest house owned by the victim's mother.

The defendant - clad in a blue prison jumpsuit, his face visibly thinner - again proclaimed, as he has in the past, that he was not guilty before Judge George Lomeli read out the sentence in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday.

"I would like once again to reassert my innocence... I didn't commit the crime," Gerhartsreiter said.

A spokeswoman for prosecutors said Gerhartsreiter would be allowed to make his first request for parole once he has served 85 percent of his minimum prison sentence of 27 years.

The hearing began with Lomeli and Gerhartsreiter, who represented himself, debating a motion by the defendant for a new trial - one that the judge ultimately rejected.

Several members of the Sohus family, including the victim's sister, were present in court. "It's been a very long storm but it's almost, almost over," Ellen Sohus said. "Why did you kill John? Where is Linda? I imagine Linda is dead and I think that you're responsible for her death."

After the alleged crime, Gerhartsreiter moved to the East Coast state of Connecticut and changed his name a number of times, eventually becoming Clark Rockefeller and getting married, fooling his wife for 12 years.

Gerhartsreiter - who also pretended to be a Hollywood producer and an English aristocrat during his years evading arrest after the killing – came to the United States more than three decades ago.

For more than 10 years, he lived without a driver's licence or bank account, never signed a lease and would not even take a flight for fear he would be recognized.

He was finally arrested in 2008 and jailed while awaiting trial. He had already been sentenced to five years behind bars in 2009 for kidnapping his seven-year-old daughter.

In closing arguments in April, prosecutor Habib Balian rejected the defence's claim that Sohus's missing wife Linda could just as easily have killed her husband.

Story continues below…

Defence attorney Jeffrey Denner had questioned a key piece of prosecution evidence - two plastic bags wrapped around Sohus's skull, each from a US university where the German had studied.

Gerhartsreiter would have to be "one of the stupidest murderers in the history of Southern California" if he killed Sohus and then wrapped the dead man's head in bags clearly linked to him, Denner told the court.

Denner admitted, however, that Gerhartsreiter was "not an easy guy" to defend. "How he went through life didn't make him very likeable... But that doesn't mean that he is a killer," he said.

AFP/tsb

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
File photo: DPA

When a man swimming naked in a Bavarian lake felt a strange pain in his nether regions, he looked up to see a fisherman on the shore. "Don’t pull!" he shouted.

Study finds rival Rhineland beers 'actually taste the same'
Left: Altbier. Right: Kölsch. Or can you even tell? Photos: DPA.

Cologne and Düsseldorf have a long established rivalry, not least over who has the better home brew. So the results of a new study might be more than they can swallow.

Eastern Europe pushes Germany for joint EU army
Angela Merkel (l), Beata Szydlo and Victor Orban. Photo: DPA

Eastern EU countries on Friday pushed for the bloc to create a joint army as they met with Germany for talks on sketching Europe's post-Brexit future.

Merkel’s party mate wants to get rid of all Karl Marx streets
Karl Marx and one of the roadways in Berlin named for him. Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Nicor

Hundreds of streets are named after the founder of communism, but this conservative politician wants to give Marx the boot.

State elections
6 reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Photo: DPA

With state elections around the corner, The Local looks at the poor side of Germany's "poor but sexy" capital city.

Upstarts RB Leipzig plan to go right to top of Bundesliga
RB Leipzig players celebrate scoring against Dynamo Dresden. Photo: DPA

RB Leipzig make their Bundesliga debut on Sunday, but the East German outfit, sponsored by energy drinks manufacturer Red Bull, are already far from popular in Germany's top-flight.

Poland criticizes Germany’s 'self-serving' foreign policy
Witold Waszczykowski. Photo: DPA

The Polish foreign minister has said that Germany all too often follows its own interests at the expense of its partners, as Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to visit Warsaw.

Vast majority of Germans in favour of burqa ban: poll
Women wearing niqab veils in Saudi Arabia. Photo: DPA.

A survey found that the vast majority of respondents were in favour of Germany passing a ban on the full-body veil sometimes worn by Muslim women.

Czech police detain driver for harassing Merkel's motorcade
Angela Merkel. File photo: DPA

Czech police arrested a man on Thursday for attempting to drive into the motorcade of visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Prague, they said.

Teacher convicted for holding kids back after class
Photo: DPA

A music teacher from North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) has been found guilty of "holding people against their will" after he made some naughty stay kids back after class.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
What's on in Germany: events for August 2016
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
8,653
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd