SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

March 28, 2013

Witness tells of love affair with impostor

LOS ANGELES — They were lovers for seven years, but Mihoko Manabe told jurors at her former fiance’s murder trial that she never knew the true identity of the man who called himself by multiple names, including Clark Rockefeller, until he was charged with murder.

Manabe yesterday told a story elicited by a prosecutor to show that by the time she met the man whose true name was Christian Gerhartsreiter, he had a terrible secret to hide.

Manabe said she met her boyfriend in 1987 when they worked at a New York brokerage firm. She was a translator; he was head of the bonds desk. She knew him as Christopher Crowe until he began using the Rockefeller pseudonym.

She didn’t know until recently that he was Gerhartsreiter, a German immigrant charged with the murder of a California man who vanished in 1985.

“He was an unusual person,” she said, but after police began calling to interview him, she said he became downright odd.

“After the call, he was markedly different,” she said.

He became paranoid and said they had to go into hiding. She described a cloak-and-dagger existence in which he had her dye his hair blonde, grew a beard, exchanged his glasses for contact lenses, and made plans to leave the country.

He proposed marriage and she accepted, she said, but they neither left the country nor got married.

“The plans all fell by the wayside,” she said.

Her fiance quit his job at another major brokerage house and never worked again. She said she supported him while he stayed home and took care of bills and household chores. She got him a credit card in the name Clark Rockefeller.

“Why did you stick around that long and go along with it?” asked Deputy District Attorney Habib Balian.

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