Wife of Rockefeller impostor hired detective to look into his background
For more than a decade, Sandra Boss thought she was married to a Rockefeller.
Clark Rockefeller had appeared charming, well-spoken and quirky when he wooed the Harvard Business School student in New York in the early 1990s. Later, as a high-powered business consultant, Boss never questioned her husband’s stories about his famous family and their falling out over an inheritance dispute. Or his claims of being involved with secretive government work. Or even his reasons for keeping the couple’s property, bank accounts and official records out of his name.
It was only when she discovered online that the actress who he had said was his dead mother was still alive that Boss grew suspicious, she told a packed downtown Los Angeles courtroom Tuesday. She said she hired a private investigator to look into the man who was the father of her daughter.
“They couldn’t find out,” she said. “They couldn’t tell me who I was married to.”
What Boss later discovered was that her Rockefeller husband was in reality an impostor — a German national named Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, who prosecutors accuse of killing the adult son of his landlady while he lived in San Marino in the mid-1980s.
In the third week of testimony at Gerhartsreiter’s murder trial, Boss was called to bolster the prosecution’s argument that Gerhartsreiter did everything he could to avoid detection by California and Connecticut detectives after he learned they were seeking him in connection with the disappearance of a young couple he had known in San Marino.
John and Linda Sohus vanished in early 1985 from the Lorain Road home they were sharing with John’s mother. Gerhartsreiter, who then went by the name Christopher Chichester, was living in a back house on the property and left the area soon afterward, reappearing on the East Coast under a series of different names. In 1994, John’s remains were discovered buried in the property’s backyard.
By then, Boss and Gerhartsreiter had been dating for about a year.
Boss, who rarely glanced at her ex-husband in court and referred to him only as “the defendant,” testified that she met the man she knew as Rockefeller after he phoned her and invited her to a Clue-themed cocktail party at his Manhattan apartment. She went as the mystery board game’s actress Miss Scarlet. Rockefeller dressed as Professor Plum, she said. Days later, he asked her out on a date.
“He was very intelligent, funny, quirky, very charming,” she said. “I thought I was in love with him. I thought I wanted to marry him.”
They wed in 1995 in Nantucket, Mass. The pair had previously attended Episcopal services but her husband suggested a Quaker ceremony, which did not require a formal officiant, explaining that he preferred its simplicity. His flirtation with Quakerism was brief, she said.
Boss said she discovered years later that her husband had lied when he claimed to have submitted the necessary paperwork to make their Quaker wedding legal.
As their relationship continued, Boss said, her husband’s charm wore off and their marriage soon experienced problems.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Habib Balian focused on how Gerhartsreiter kept a low profile even while telling everyone that he was a scion of one of America’s wealthiest and best-known families.
Boss said her husband told her he was highly protective of his privacy because of his family and did not want to be recognized. He insisted on wearing hats in public, including fedoras or baseball caps. He didn’t drive and didn’t have a license.
Mail was sent to post office boxes rather than their home. Their utilities, phones and property were all in her name or the name of a trust connected to her, she testified. Bank accounts were in her name, and he paid the bills using blank checks she had signed, she testified.
Her husband, she said, refused to travel to either California or Connecticut, where he said his parents had been killed in a car accident. He never mentioned having lived in San Marino and he called Connecticut “an evil state” that he would never set foot in. When they traveled through the state, he would not allow them to stop for a restroom break.
“That was not done. One waited,” Boss told the court. “Apparently, it was tacky to use the public restroom.”
Once air travel rules began requiring passengers to provide official identification, her husband stopped flying, claiming he had ear problems, she said. She testified she had never seen any evidence of such medical issues.
At one point, the prosecutor left a photograph in front of Boss that showed her and her ex-husband smiling next to each other at their wedding.
“You left your picture here,” she called after the prosecutor. “I don’t want to keep looking at that.”
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