The family of a man whose body was found years ago buried in his San Marino backyard had plenty of questions Thursday after his convicted murderer was sentenced, but it all came down to this: Why?
Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, who once masqueraded as a member of the Rockefeller family, was sentenced Thursday to 27 years to life in prison for the murder of his landlady’s adult son, John Sohus.
The victim vanished from San Marino in February 1985, as did his wife, Linda. His body was buried behind a guest house where Gerhartsreiter had been living on the Lorain Road property, where the couple lived with John’s mother in the main house. Linda has never been found.
In an emotional speech before Gerhartsreiter’s sentencing, John Sohus’ half sister, Ellen Sohus, addressed Gerhartsreiter directly.
“Why did you kill my brother?” she asked. “What happened to Linda? I believe Linda is dead and that you are responsible for her death.”
After John Solus’ body was found, Ellen and John’s father would ask his family, often, “Why John? He was the kindest person I have ever known.”
Gerhartsreiter, 52, was accused of bludgeoning 27-year-old Sohus with a blunt object. He proclaimed his innocence before his sentencing. After his conviction in April, Gerhartsreiter, a German immigrant, dismissed his team of Boston attorneys and represented himself during the sentencing hearing.
“I want to assert my innocence,” he said, “and that I firmly believe that the victim’s wife killed the victim, but, be that as it may, once again, I did not commit the crime.”
Gerhartsreiter had filed a lengthy motion for a new trial, claiming the evidence presented during his more than three-week trial did not support the guilty verdict, but it was denied by Judge George G. Lomeli.
In her speech, Ellen Sohus said that even though Gerhartsreiter has been convicted, there is no closure.
“John’s still gone,” she said. “What we do have are some answers, not all of them, but some.”
Ellen Sohus said that in recent years she has seen photos of Gerhartsreiter with his young daughter.
“He and his daughter appear to be happy,” she said. “It is sad that he will not be able to watch her grow up. It is sad that she will not have her father with her during life’s most precious moments.”
At that, Gerhartsreiter, at the defense table, nodded.
“And yet,” Ellen Sohus continued, “It was his actions in 1985 that resulted in that very experience for my father.”
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