Rockefeller impostor avoided East Coast detective, witness says

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Christian Gerhartsreiter walked away from a Wall Street job that would have paid him up to $300,000 a year shortly after a detective looking to question him about a missing persons case called his employer, a former boss testified Thursday.

Ralph Boynton, an investment banker, told jurors at Gerhartsreiter’s murder trial that he had tried on several occasions to arrange a meeting between the detective and Gerhartsreiter at his firm’s New York offices.

Boynton said he did not tell Gerhartsreiter that the detective was looking for him. However, each time the detective was waiting, Gerhartsreiter failed to show up, Boynton said. Finally, Boynton said that in a telephone conversation, Gerhartsreiter asked for an extended leave of absence from the firm, saying “his parents were in harm’s way and possibly being kidnapped by foreign elites.”


FULL COVERAGE: Rockefeller imposter on trial

Boynton said that was the last he heard from Gerhartsreiter.

Prosecutors allege that Gerhartsreiter was trying to avoid meeting the detective in 1988 because he didn’t want to answer questions regarding the missing couple, John and Linda Sohus, who had disappeared three years earlier. They allege that Gerhartsreiter killed John Sohus and buried his body in the backyard of a San Marino home where all three had lived. Sohus’ remains were dug up in 1994.

Boynton said Gerhartsreiter -- then going by the name Christopher Crowe -- had been working at Kidder, Peabody and Co. on a trial basis in fall 1988. He said the young man had impressed him and was being considered for a permanent job.

After leaving the firm, Gerhartsreiter resurfaced later on the East Coast as Clark Rockefeller.

Greenwich, Conn., Police Lt. Daniel Allen, who at the time was a detective assisting San Marino police with the missing persons case surrounding the Sohuses, testified Thursday that Gerhartsreiter gave an acquaintance a white pickup truck that had belonged to the Sohuses. When authorities learned of the truck’s whereabouts, they sought to interview Gerhartsreiter.

Despite Allen’s efforts to find Gerhartsreiter -- including tracking down a post office box he was using and making calls to several addresses connected to him -- Allen said he “never met him face-to-face.”


Defense attorney Brad Bailey has said that his client may have been evasive and tried to avoid Allen, but that did not prove he was a killer.

Also on Thursday, prosecutors played portions of a “Today” show jailhouse interview with Gerhartsreiter. Gerhartsreiter, who grew up in Germany, said he believed he grew up in New York and had clear childhood memories of going to Mount Rushmore and picking strawberries in Oregon. He said he had no clear memories of his family.

He said in the interview that Christopher Crowe was a “name I used temporarily” while working on Wall Street. “I was never particularly good at what I was doing,” he said of his work there.

Asked whether he killed John and Linda Sohus, Gerhartsreiter replied: “My entire life I have always been a pacifist. I am a Quaker, and I believe in nonviolence. And I can fairly certainly say that I have never hurt anyone physically.”


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Twitter: @haileybranson