tv Fox 5 News at Ten FOX October 19, 2013 10:30pm-11:00pm EDT
gutsy because that church has real rockefellers. >> reporter: it was through friends at church that clark rockefeller met a bright young harvard business school student named sandra boss while playing a game that coincidentally involved fake identities and murder. >> are you talking about the board game "clue"? >> the board game "clue." >> who did you go as? >> i was miss scarlet. >> was the defendant in character? >> yes. >> who was he? >> he was professor plumb. >> reporter: boss and rockefeller quickly became an item and later moved in together. she says she simply accepted his odd and eccentric behavior. >> and he refused to set foot on the soil of connecticut because it was an evil state and that was where his parents had died. so, even if we had to drive between boston and new york, he would not actually allow stops in the state of connecticut. >> what about to use a restroom? >> that was not done. one waited.
( laughs ) >> reporter: while a rockefeller courted his soon-to-be wife in new york, back in san marino, the mystery of john sohus' disappearance was about to take a sharp turn. >> the owners of didi sohus' house at 1920 lorraine decided to put in a swimming pool. and during the excavation of the pool, the bulldozer operator struck something hard, and it turned out to be human bones. >> reporter: the gravesite was directly behind the guest house where a young man named chichester once lived. >> the body was found. it was inside of a fiberglass container. >> reporter: l.a. sheriffs detective tim miley. >> inside the container, the arms, legs and torso were wrapped in saran wrap, hands were covered in bags, and the hands, feet and head were covered in plastic bags. >> reporter: the remains were so decomposed that they couldn't be officially identified, and the
coroner wouldn't rule it a homicide. >> police could only speculate about how the body came to be buried in the backyard of the one-time sohus residence. >> reporter: the tv show "unsolved mysteries" recreated the scene and even posted a picture of christopher chichester, calling him a person of interest, but no one called in with a tip. >> and when they didn't get anything back from that, then the case just went cold again. >> reporter: but who was then the main person of interest at the time the body was found? >> they were looking at both linda sohus, the wife, and christian gerhartstreiter. >> reporter: gerhartstreiter, who was now hiding out in plain sight as clark rockefeller and telling everyone that he had just inherited what they would all come to believe was a multimillion-dollar art collection. writer walter kirn remembers the
first time he laid eyes on it. >> standing unframed against the walls are what must have been $50 million, $60 million worth of mark rothkos, jackson pollocks, abstract expressionist masterpieces. >> reporter: that artwork was one reason that kirn never doubted rockefeller until years later, when the whole world would learn that the art was expertly forged. >> you wouldn't guess that the man is fake, the art is fake, the name is fake-- everything, you know. >> reporter: shortly after the art appeared, sandra boss married her rockefeller. >> who supported your family financially after you got married? >> i did. >> who controlled the finances? >> the defendant. >> reporter: kirn met the couple in 1998 when the marriage was already in trouble. >> i remember sitting there thinking, "this is a sad marriage. they don't love each other." it didn't seem like a happy
place. >> reporter: but they stayed together and even had a daughter. in 2001, reigh storrow rockefeller was born. but five years later, sandra boss filed for divorce, and when things got contentious, her husband's con finally unraveled. >> i found out in august of 2007 that he was not clark rockefeller. >> she hires a detective, and he goes, "we can find absolutely nothing on this individual. we don't know who he is." it was like he had materialized out of thin air. >> he called me up around christmastime, and he said, "i just lost my daughter in a divorce. well, i don't think i'm ever going to be able to see her again. my wife's taking her to england." >> an amber alert has been issued for a girl abducted in boston. police say she may have been
taken by her father. >> reporter: on july 27, 2008, f.b.i. agent tammy hardy got a call from headquarters that a rockefeller living in boston had kidnapped his seven-year-old daughter during a supervised visitation. >> the social worker tried to prevent it, and he was dragged by the vehicle and was injured during the course of the abduction. >> there is still no sign of clark rockefeller and his seven- year-old daughter, reigh. >> reporter: for six days, rockefeller eluded even the f.b.i. by changing his identity once again. >> he had set up an elaborate new identity in baltimore as chip smith, a high seas ship captain who has a daughter named muffy. >> it was very apparent that this was a well-thought-out abduction, that he had planned this for a long time. >> it all happened so fast at marlborough and arlington streets. >> reporter: but it all came to an end when a real estate agent in baltimore saw the fake
rockefeller on the news. she realized he was the man she had just sold a house to. the f.b.i. surrounded that house, and, when they were certain the child was safe, they arrested her father without incident. >> the evidence will show that, in his mind, the rules do not apply to him. >> reporter: at his kidnapping trial, the world met christian karl gerhartstreiter, a german immigrant who'd come to america as a young man and created a life that was complete fiction. gerhartstreiter was tried and convicted... >> we, the jury, say that the defendant is guilty of offenses charged. >> reporter: ...although his defense team tried to argue that their client was delusional... >> the defendant is delusional. >> reporter: ...and actually believed he was a rockefeller. but that's not the man federal agent tammy hardy met the night he was arrested. >> did that ever open up doors for you? >> plenty! are you kidding? everywhere. >> he knew. i'm not a rockefeller. i'm not christopher crowe.
i'm not count mountbatten, or whoever that was. ( laughs ) >> it was amazing. works like a charm. try it sometime. ( laughter ) i'm serious. it worked like a charm. >> reporter: is he dangerous? >> yes. i have no doubt that he killed john sohus. i have no doubt that he killed linda sohus. >> reporter: in california, detective tim miley and delores scott were also convinced gerhartstreiter killed linda and john and were working against the clock to prove it before he could serve his time on the kidnapping charge and then disappear again. [ male announcer ] hurry in to red lobster's crabfest, with three entrées under $20. like our new snow crab and crab butter shrimp, just $14.99. only at red lobster where we sea food differently. [ male announcer ] now try 7 lunch choices at $7.99. sandwiches, salads, and more.
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>> um, no, no, no, let's not get into that again. erin, erin, erin. >> reporter: because we're talking about how you would put on these personas, that it was fun. >> let's go back to the trial testimony. that's why we're here. >> reporter: gerhartstreiter-- a.k.a. clark rockefeller-- was serving a four- to five-year sentence for kidnapping his daughter when he was suddenly on the move again, hauled from a massachusetts prison to a california jail, where he would now face charges for the murder of john sohus. l.a. county sheriff detective tim miley and dolores scott led the cold case investigation. did you know what you were getting into when you first started this investigation? >> no, we had no idea how bad it was, how difficult it was going to get. >> it took four years, four years of our lives, right? >> yeah, yeah. >> reporter: the detectives had to determine exactly how john
sohus died. the problem was, all they had to work with was the victim's skull, and it was in pieces and had to be reconstructed by a special lab in hawaii. >> this is where the facial bones would be, but we never know... >> reporter: that's when forensic pathologist dr. frank sheridan was finally able to determine how john sohus had died he had been viciously bludgeoned. how do you know that? how can you tell? >> partly, it's based on looking at the edges of the fractures, the dark appearance. >> reporter: dark edges, says dr. sheridan, mean a fracture has occurred at the time of death, and not when the body was unearthed. >> the decomposing scalp, blood, sinks down into the fracture lines. and that's one of the indications that these fractures occurred shortly before death. >> reporter: how many times do you think john sohus was hit here? >> in this area here, i believe
at least twice. it takes a fair amount of force to cause this kind of injury. >> reporter: but now, how to prove the killer was gerhartstreiter. sohus was buried just feet from the guest house where gerhartstreiter once lived. and his body, wrapped in plastic bookstore bags traced to colleges that gerhartstreiter had attended. yet no d.n.a., no fingerprints belonging to the defendant were found. >> but you have to understand, obviously, the bags and the body have been underground for nine years, and dirt just decomposes everything. >> reporter: right, but you've got a jury that might say reasonable doubt. >> all we can do is put on the best case we can. >> reporter: in an l.a. courtroom in march of 2013, christian gerhartstreiter went on trial for the murder of john sohus. >> we are on the record, the matter of people versus gerhartstreiter. >> reporter: did you kill john sohus? >> no!
>> reporter: did you kill linda sohus? >> no! absolutely not. she's around somewhere. >> reporter: you believe she's still alive? >> absolutely. >> reporter: gerhartstreiter's defense is that linda sohus is the one who killed her husband and is alive and hiding from authorities. the proof: these postcards in linda's handwriting that were sent to her family and friends from europe after she disappeared. but to walter kirn, this was classic gerhartstreiter. >> the postcards were such an ingenious move. you know what i mean? your common murderer doesn't try to cover a crime that way. >> reporter: like a scene from a hitchcock thriller, kirn says, the defendant carefully concocted the couple's disappearance. >> to me, one of the most convincing pieces of evidence was the stories they told about
going off on a secret mission. going off on a secret mission was a clark idea. now, obviously, that was to prepare people not to look for them, to prepare people for their absence. >> reporter: but even after nearly three decades, linda nor her body have been found. isn't it possible that linda's out there just under a different name, doing what chris did? >> no, everything points to her being deceased. >> reporter: detective miley says linda couldn't have sent the postcards. d.n.a. taken off the stamp doesn't match linda's, but it also doesn't match the defendant's. >> it proves he has the ability to have somebody send a postcard from europe when he's not there. >> reporter: john sohus' younger sister, ellen, attended the trial every day and says there is no way that linda would have killed her brother. >> linda and john, if you could have seen them together, it would be very hard for you to believe that she would have done anything to hurt john. >> reporter: ellen says there's
far more evidence that point to gerhartstreiter. >> all the things i learned about how he changed identities, trying to sell my brother's truck, covering up all of these things. >> reporter: gerhartstreiter says didi gave him the truck. you don't believe that? >> no. she didn't touch the bedroom that they had slept in. all of his stuff and linda's stuff was left untouched. she wouldn't have done that and given the truck away. >> the truck was in my possession for three and a half years with its license plates attached, unaltered, unchanged, in excellent condition. why would a person who... who is aware of criminal liability preserve evidence? answer that. >> no way.
no way. >> reporter: that's how lieutenant dan allen of the greenwich p.d. answered. >> it wasn't out in the open. as far as i could determine, no one ever saw that white pickup truck. >> reporter: and how did he miss someone burying the body right behind his house when, according to trial testimony, it would have taken the killer several hours? if linda, in fact, killed her husband, wouldn't you have seen her burying the body? >> well, if you believe that i'm home every single second, that i never leave my house, that i never go out at all, that i don't go away on weekends... >> reporter: but wouldn't you notice if the ground was dug up? >> it was not a very well-kept property, let's put it that way. >> all jurors may be dismissed at all recesses. all right, mr. bailiff. >> reporter: as the case goes to the jury, gerhartstreiter is feeling confident. >> i believe it because i know for a fact that i did not do this. i know that for an absolute fact. >> sitting in that courtroom, waves of anger would come over me. every minute i was sitting there, i was going, "please, jury, find him guilty. he did it. he did it."
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when your allergies start, doctors recommend taking one non-drowsy claritin every day during your allergy season for continuous relief. 18 days! 17 days! 22 days of continuous relief. live claritin clear. every day. >> reporter: as a packed courtroom gathered to hear the verdict in the murder trial of christian gerhartstreiter, the man who once called himself rockefeller looked confident while the prosecutor, habib balian, seemed nervous. >> he had conned so many people for so many years, you always worry that, okay, this might be his one last con and he's going to escape justice. >> reporter: writer walter kirn, who's finishing a book about his former friend, attended the
trial for the "new yorker" magazine. >> i deferred to the old-time court reporters who were there around me, and i said, "so what do you think is going to happen?" and they said, "oh, he's going to get off." "why do you say that?" "oh, the evidence is so circumstantial. one of the victims is missing. she might still be out there. maybe she did it. they can't establish a motive." these people had me convinced that, you know, this was going to be clark's greatest magic trick. >> reporter: ellen sohus and another brother, chris, were just as worried. >> i was very worried that those key pieces would be enough to create doubt. >> okay, is it correct the jury has reached a verdict? >> yes. >> reporter: but in the end... >> we, the jury in the above entitled action, find the defendant, christian gerhartstreiter, guilty of the crime of murder in the first degree of john sohus.
>> i started to cry because we finally got justice. >> reporter: but it's a bittersweet victory because the painful questions still remains. where is linda sohus? do you believe, then, that christian gerhartstreiter also killed linda? >> yes. >> yeah. i believe she probably met a similar fate to my brother. >> reporter: do you think we'll ever know what happened to linda? >> not unless he decides to confess. >> reporter: i was curious how the jury felt about linda and had the opportunity to ask the foreperson. did you feel linda had anything to do with it? >> i... i didn't. >> reporter: so, did you believe at the end of the trial that if christian gerhartstreiter killed john, he probably killed linda, too? >> yes. >> reporter: do you think we'll
ever really know what happened to linda sohus? >> i hope so. >> reporter: los angeles county sheriff lee bacca. was justice done in this case? >> yes and no. there's no real justice in a murder case; you'll never bring back the victims. but we're happy we solved this case, and the ingenuity of the homicide detectives and all their colleagues on the federal and local level are to be cheered for this. >> your honor, i can only say once again that i... i want to assert my innocence and that i firmly believe that the victim's wife killed the victim. >> that emptiness is evil. it's that lack of feeling, using everybody as a tool, everybody as a way to get your will is as close to a definition of evil, as monstrousness as i can come to. >> reporter: you really think he's a monster? >> i think he's a monster. i think he's a monster. >> the defendant shall receive the sentence for the crime of first degree murder as dictated
under the law, which is a sentence of 25 years to life. >> reporter: the day i spoke with gerhartstreiter, he had just been sentenced. >> i can't speak for the jury's decision. half of them were probably too stupid to understand reasonable doubt, the other half were probably too lazy to even think about what's been presented and just wanted to get out of here. this will be overturned, make no mistakes about this. so, it's just a minor inconvenience until then. that's all it is.
captioning sponsored by cbs captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org >> he is the real thing. >> it changed my entire life. >> nate was a football star, lauren was a sassy girl. >> they were always breaking up, getting back together. >> the loss, the breakup, it's tweeted, it's facebooked. >> when they told me that they had found her body, i remember just bellowing, "don't let it be nate." he will be a 24/7 governor for virginia. so we are coming down to the home stretch. i have been in a lot of
elections. >> could this be a tease of what's to come? hillary clinton is on the campaign trail in virginia. hello, everybody, i'm bruce johnson. thanks for joining us, the democratic candidate for government got a big boost today. hillary clinton introduced terri at a rally in falls church. clinton is the early favorite to become the democratic nominee for president who should note, the virginia appearance is clinton's first public campaign appearance since she left the state department. suray chin brings us up to date in northern virginia. >> ladies and gentlemen, hilary hillary clinton. >> on center stage at the state theater in falls church to endorse terri mcauliffe, democratic candidate. >> i am so happy to be here to enthusiastically endorse, terri