LOS ANGELES — Testimony in the murder trial of a notorious Rockefeller impostor opened yesterday with a witness telling how his excavation for a pool turned creepy when he discovered a human skull and a bag of bones.
“We were all kind of freaked out,” said Jose Perez, a heavy equipment operator who was digging for a pool in suburban San Marino in 1994 when he and his father discovered the human remains. They called police.
It had been a decade since Christian Gerhartsreiter, known to his San Marino neighbors as Chris Chichester, had disappeared.
The 52-year-old German immigrant is now on trial in the killing of John Sohus, the 27-year-old son of his landlady.
Sohus and his wife vanished in 1985, but his remains were identified soon after Perez’s discovery. No trace of Linda Sohus has ever been found.
Jurors also heard yesterday from a friend who described the defendant as a very strange guy with a big hole covered with dirt in his yard. Gerhartsreiter lived as a tenant on Sohus’ mother’s property in 1984 and 1985.
Dana Glad Farrar, who knew the defendant when she was a film school student at the University of Southern California, testified that he invited her to a party in his yard to play Trivial Pursuit.
“As soon as I sat down, I noticed there was dirt in the yard that had been dug up,” she recalled.
“I said, ‘What’s going on with your yard, Chris? It’s all dug up,” Farrar testified. “He said he had plumbing problems.”
Farrar said Gerhartsreiter told her he was some sort of a film producer and she often saw him lingering at USC. She said he presented her with his card that had a crest and announced him as the 13th baronet of England.
“I didn’t know what a baronet was,” she said. “I thought it was kind of phony.”