The Boston con artist who passed himself off as Clark Rockefeller "is relieved
that things are under way" in his California trial for the 1985 murder of his
landlord's son, his attorney said yesterday after opening statements.
"He's holding up fine," said R. Bradford Bailey, who with fellow Hub attorney Jeffrey Denner is defending Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter against charges he murdered 27-year-old John Sohus decades ago in a toney Los Angeles suburb.
Prosecutors used a chilling photo of a long-buried skeleton -- unearthed in Sohus' yard in 1994 -- as a backdrop for their opening statements, which painted Gerhartsreiter as a skilled coast-to-coast impostor who claimed to be, among other things, a famous film director, a descendant of British royalty and an heir to a South African fortune. They say he abandoned a six-figure gig as a bond trader once authorities linked him to a truck owned by the victim's family.
Bailey argued in his opening statement that the prosecution's circumstantial evidence could point to Sohus' wife, Linda, as the killer. Linda Sohus disappeared at the same time, but her remains were never found. Prosecutors say she is dead.
The trial is expected to last six weeks.
"Any time you have a circumstantial case, it takes a lot of witnesses to build it," Bailey said.
Gerhartsreiter, a German national, was convicted in 2009 of kidnapping his 8-year-old daughter, Reigh "Snooks" Storrow Mills Boss, on a Back Bay street while in a custody dispute with his former wife. The kidnapping triggered a worldwide manhunt and revealed Gerhartsreiter -- eventually captured in Baltimore -- as a German-born charlatan who conned his wife and Back Bay friends into believing he was an heir of the storied Rockefeller clan.
A judge sentenced him to four to five years in prison. He'd nearly completed the term when he was charged with the California killing.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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