Fake Rockefeller Charged in 1985 Murder

Man who passed himself off as Clark Rockefeller allegedly killed California man.

March 15, 2011— -- A con man who posed as a Rockefeller, a rocket scientist and a heart surgeon to ingratiate himself with the wealthy, was charged today with murder in the 1985 killing of a California man.

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, 50, a German immigrant who used the name Clark Rockefeller and claimed to be a member of the famed family, was charged in Los Angeles with murdering a San Marino man whose body was discovered a decade after he disappeared.

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Habib Balian filed the complaint this morning in Alhambra Superior Court, asking that Gerhartsreiter be extradited from Massachusetts, where he is in prison for kidnapping.

Gerhartsreiter was convicted in June 2009 of absconding with his 7-year-old daughter during a supervised visit and assaulting a social worker with a dangerous weapon when the man tried to protect the little girl.

In the new charge, Gerhartsreiter is accused of murdering John Sohus, 27, who was last seen in early 1985.

At the time, Gerhartsreiter, then calling himself Christopher Chichester, was living in the Sohus family guest house at their San Marino home, police said. Shortly after John Sohus disappeared, so did Chichester.

In May 1994, a body was discovered buried in the backyard of the Sohus home, and the remains were later identified as those of John Sohus. An investigation determined he was killed by blunt force trauma to the head.

Balian will ask that bail be set at $10 million for Gerhartsreiter when he is arraigned, according to a statement from the prosecutor's office.

Gerhartsreiter faces 26 years to life in prison if he is convicted.

"Based on all the information that I have, I believe in his innocence," Gerhartsreiter's attorney, Jeffrey Denner, told The Associated Press in Boston. "I'm very interested in seeing what new evidence that the government has come up with that prompted them to the point of actually charging him."

He told the AP he would talk with his client Wednesday about the new charges.

At his kidnapping trial, Gerhartsreiter's lawyers had maintained that the German immigrant was insane and suffering from delusions when he took off with daughter Reigh "Snooks" Boss in July 2008.

'Clark Rockefeller' Charged in 1985 Murder

Prosecutors told the jury in closing arguments that the notion that Gerhartsreiter was insane at the time of his crimes was simply another attempt at manipulation, something his lawyer, Jeffrey Denner, said "goes beyond the pale."

In addition to the four to five years for the kidnapping conviction, Gerhartsreiter was also sentenced to a two- to three-year term for the assault, to run concurrently with the kidnapping sentence. He is serving his terms at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute in Concord, Mass.

Prior to sentencing, Gerhartsreiter's ex-wife Sandra Boss and social worker Howard Yaffe, who was assaulted during the kidnapping, requested in their victim statements that Gerhartsreiter be given the fullest sentence under the law.

It was during a post-divorce, supervised visitation with his daughter that Gerhartsreiter grabbed Reigh and ordered the driver of an SUV to speed off, sending Yaffe, who was trying to rescue Reigh, out of the vehicle, and tumbling to the street.

Gerhartsreiter and Reigh were found six days later in a Baltimore town home that he had purchased a few months earlier.

"You have a guy who loved his daughter too much and made huge mistakes" in showing that love, Denner said.

Despite the two convictions, the jury found Gerhartsreiter not guilty of giving law enforcement a false name and not guilty of a second assault charge that included battery.

Bizarre details of Gerhartsreiter's three decades of deception came fast and furious during the trial, with witnesses recounting a litany of fantastic tales that were alternately flamboyant or strange, or both.

Gerhartsreiter, who had claimed that his daughter Reigh communicated with him telepathically the day she was kidnapped, had a history of passing himself off not only as a Rockefeller, but as a rocket scientist and a cardiovascular surgeon, among other professions.

ABC News' Sarah Netter and Michele McPhee contributed to this report.