• Germany's news in English
 

Fake Rockefeller jailed for killing US landlord

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.

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
Five things to know about weed in Germany
Photo: DPA

Five things to know about weed in Germany

The stoner holiday of 4/20 may not be as popular in Germany as in its homeland the United States, but weed is nonetheless a hot topic in Europe’s largest economy. For the hemp holiday on Monday, The Local shares five things you should know about weed in Germany. READ  

Migrant boat tragedy
Merkel: We must stop migrant traffickers
Refugees on the deck of an Italian navy ship in April 2014. Photo: DPA

Merkel: We must stop migrant traffickers

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that "everything" would be done to prevent more migrants dying in the Mediterranean in their quest for a better life in Europe. READ  

Salafists giving kids martial arts lessons
Police arrest a terror suspect in Mönchengladbach in January. Photo: DPA

Salafists giving kids martial arts lessons

Members of a Salafist group in western Germany have been giving lessons in martial arts to local kids, police reports revealed on Monday. READ  

Holocaust survivors speak before Nazi trial
Two Holocaust survivors at the press conference in Lüneberg. Photo:Dpa

Holocaust survivors speak before Nazi trial

Holocaust survivors spoke at a press conference on Monday before the beginning of the trial of Oscar Gröning, a 93-year-old man who worked at Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War. READ  

Football fans abuse AfD head on train
Alternative for Germany leader Bernd Lucke with Deputy Alexander Gauland. Photo: DPA

Football fans abuse AfD head on train

Two football fans hurled abuse at Bernd Lucke, the leader of the right-wing Alternative for Germany party, as he tried to eat dinner with his wife on a train from Berlin to Cologne on Saturday. READ  

Meet new Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel
Thomas Tuchel: the young pretender. Photo: DPA

Meet new Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel

Borussia Dortmund have named ex-Mainz manager Thomas Tuchel as Jürgen Klopp's successor. But the legendary coach who steered BVB from strength to strength will be a tough act to follow. READ  

Woman takes equal pay battle to highest court
Edeltraud Walla in her University of Stuttgart workshop. Photo: DPA

Woman takes equal pay battle to highest court

A university worker in Stuttgart has fought a battle with her employer over unequal pay all the way to the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, as the government mulls a new law on gendered compensation. READ  

Nuremberg man injures three in car attack
The aftermath of the crash in Nürnberg. Photo:DPA

Nuremberg man injures three in car attack

A 42-year-old man drove his car into a crowd sitting outside a cafe in Nuremberg on Sunday evening, seriously injuring three men. Police said they suspect that the crash was deliberate. READ  

Union plans new rail strikes this week
Deutsche Bahn intercity trains. Photo: DPA

Union plans new rail strikes this week

Train drivers' union GDL said on Monday that passenger services as well as freight could be hit by strikes this week, after talks over pay, conditions and union representation failed on Friday. READ  

Robots woo crowds at Hannover trade fair
Photo: DPA

Robots woo crowds at Hannover trade fair

Collaborative robots and intelligent machinery may have wowed the crowds at this year's Hannover Messe, but experts see German industry as having some way to go towards incorporating them on factory floors in what could become the fourth industrial revolution. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Politics
A Greek learning politics in Germany
Features
The battle of the "Gates of Berlin"
National
Germany's favourite baby names of 2014
National
Germany's 'very poor' lobbying record
National
VIDEO: Mario Draghi suffers anti-ECB confetti attack
Politics
Merkel's 15 years at the top of German politics
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
10 things you didn’t know about Zagreb (and why you should go)
Features
Spice up asparagus season with The Local's serving suggestions
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
Travel
Lowest of the low: how woman exploited Germanwings crash
Sport
Football and the €30,000 firework
Technology
Why scientists oppose killer robots
National
Germanwings co-pilot 'searched suicide info'
Technology
Electrifying 'Ostalgia'
National
Which city is Germany's worst for drivers?
National
'Cannibal cop' gets 8 years
Can the 'nightmare' of a pilot downing a plane be prevented?
National
LIVE: Co-pilot suspected of crashing plane
Pupils mourn lost classmates
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
National
Why east Germans are happy to get it on on camera
National
What would you do with a 250-year-old pretzel?
Features
Just why is the German flag Schwarz, Rot, Gold?
Business & Money
Getting German workers and bosses thinking positive
National
Uplifting thoughts to get you through the last week of winter
National
Who wants the Olympics more - Hamburg or Berlin?
National
Last-minute drama of Germany's Eurovision 2015 entry
National
German photographer takes world's top prize
Features
Meet the woman getting Germans to drink more – and better – beer
Gallery
Get inspired for International Women's Day with German heroes
Green party proposes first-ever cannabis legalization plan
Gallery
In pictures: Germany's seven most livable cities
National
Singapore canes Germans for train graffiti
Politics
Surprise! Germans love feeling like they run the EU
Politics
Anger over plan to show women what men earn
Travel
Munich tram fans bicker over new bell
Features
Kafka: puzzling translators 100 years on
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best country to work in?
Photo: Police
Rhineland
Student driver crashes tank into family garden.
Photo: DPA
Politics
There was a notable absence at the Anti-Semitism Commission
National
How Dresden bombing still divides Germany, 70 years on
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Take a cute break with this gallery of baby animals
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

7,165
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd