German Rockefeller imposter, Christian Gerhartsreiter, guilty of 1985 US murder
Conman who pretended to be part of wealthy US family convicted of killing landlady's son
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, is being published in January 2014.
Wednesday 10 April 2013
A German criminal, who spent years pretending to be a member of the fabulously wealthy Rockefeller family, has been found guilty of murdering his landlady's son in San Marino, California, in 1985.
A jury in Los Angeles took less than a day to decide that Christian Gerhartsreiter, who is now 52, had bludgeoned to death 27-year-old John Suhos and buried him in a shallow grave behind the guesthouse where the two men both lived. Mr Suhos's remains were uncovered in 1994 as a construction crew dug a swimming pool for the property's subsequent owner. His wife Linda, who also went missing, has never been found.
At the time of the couple's disappearance, Gerhartsreiter was passing himself off as Christopher Chichester, a British aristocrat with royal connections. He vanished from California not long after the murder and moved to Connecticut, where he set himself up as Christopher Crowe, a film and television producer. Eventually he concocted his most spectacular and successful false identity, claiming to belong to one of the country's most famous families.
As Yale-educated Clark Rockefeller, he rose through the ranks of the exclusive Algonquin Club in Boston, and gained the trust of Sandra Boss, the Harvard Business School graduate whom he wed in 1995. Boss was the breadwinner, but Gerhartsreiter jealously controlled the family income from her work as a business consultant. The couple were married for more than a decade before Boss grew suspicious of her increasingly abusive husband, and hired a private investigator, who exposed the fabrications in his biography. The couple began divorce proceedings, but Gerhartsreiter's true identity was only revealed in 2008, after he was arrested for abducting his daughter during a custody battle.
Gerhartsreiter was convicted of kidnapping, assault and battery in 2009, and he was nearing the end of a four-year prison sentence when Los Angeles police finally linked him to the 1985 murder. He faces a possible life sentence.
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