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Rockefeller impostor expected to be sentenced for murder Thursday

A convicted killer who once masqueraded as a member of the Rockefeller family is expected to be sentenced Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter was found guilty in April of murdering his landlady’s adult son, John Sohus, who vanished from San Marino in February 1985, as did his wife, Linda. Gerhartsreiter left San Marino soon afterward, resurfacing on the East Coast under a series of new names, including Clark Rockefeller. 

Gerhartsreiter, 52, was accused of bludgeoning John Sohus, 27, in the head with a blunt object. The body was found buried behind a guesthouse on the Lorain Road property, where the couple lived with John's mother in the main house. 

Gerhartsreiter faces 27 years to life in prison. 

Linda Sohus, who disappeared at age 29, has never been found. Authorities checked databases containing 30 billion records for some sign that she had opened a bank account, received mail or created any other kind of paper trail, but to no avail.

Gerhartsreiter's attorneys argued that Sohus could have been the killer -- a notion several jurors said they quickly dismissed.

Since his conviction, Gerhartsreiter, a German immigrant, has dismissed his team of Boston attorneys and will represent himself during his sentencing hearing.

Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli warned Gerhartsreiter that representing himself would be difficult and said he did not recommend doing so.

“It is not advised to do that,” Lomeli told Gerhartsreiter in June. “You will go up against an experienced district attorney. ... You’re not going to get any kind of a break.”

Gerhartsreiter told the judge he planned to file a motion for a new trial, saying he thought Deputy Dist. Atty. Habib Balian improperly argued that Gerhartsreiter also killed Linda Sohus. He was not charged with her murder.

The judge said he did not think Balian made that argument but that Gerhartsreiter would be able to review transcripts of the three-week trial, in which more than 40 witnesses testified.

Lomeli told Gerhartsreiter he would not be able to present new evidence and that he was not being granted a “fishing expedition” in picking through the transcripts, because the jury had already made a decision. 

In a July hearing, Lomeli declined Gerhartsreiter’s request to delay the sentencing. Gerhartsreiter said he was reading the transcripts but that “everything is going rather slowly.”

“I’m a relative novice in this,” Gerhartsreiter said of the legal process.

He said he had taken a debate class more than 30 years ago and hoped to draw from that while preparing for the hearing. 

He added that he thought “the victim’s wife not only pre-planned this crime, but also hid ... from the victim.” 

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hailey.branson@latimes.com

Twitter: @haileybranson

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