, Salem, MA


April 10, 2013

Rockefeller impostor murder case goes to jury

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A murder case against a notorious Rockefeller impostor was turned over to a Los Angeles jury yesterday after the prosecutor implored the panel to find the defendant guilty of the cold-case crime.

“He’s gotten away with it long enough,” Deputy District Attorney Habib Balian said. “Hold this man accountable.”

Christian Gerhartsreiter, a German immigrant whose elaborate charade as a member of the fabled Rockefeller oil family unraveled when he was arrested, sat silently taking notes as he has throughout his three-week trial.

The prosecution’s rebuttal argument ridiculed the defense theory that victim John Sohus was killed by his own wife, who has been missing since the couple vanished in 1985.

Balian acknowledged in his final remarks that he had not presented jurors with a motive for the killing.

“Some cases are so old that you never get every question answered,” he said.

“Many tragedies happen and we search for reasons, and sometimes we never find them.”

Still, he said there is enough circumstantial evidence to convict the defendant of killing John Sohus. Gerhartsreiter is not charged with killing Linda Sohus, but the prosecutor suggested he killed her, too.

The bones of John Sohus were unearthed in the backyard of his mother’s former house in San Marino in 1995. Gerhartsreiter lived as a tenant in a cottage on the property in 1984 and 1985. He vanished around the same time the couple disappeared, according to witnesses.

Balian showed jurors a photo of the grave directly in front of the living room windows of the cottage.

A defense lawyer has argued that the 130-pound Gerhartsreiter was not strong enough to wield a shovel and pickax to dig a 4-foot hole in his yard for the body.

Balian’s answer was: “You commit murder, you dig a hole to China if you have to.”

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