Massachusetts Man With a California History: The Saga of Clark Rockefeller – Part Two

In my last post, I talked about the Clark Rockefeller case, closing with the question of what, if any crimes Rockefeller might be charged with in this case.

Given the incredible, yanked-from-Hollywood story that seems to be this man’s life for the past thirty years, complete with multiple identities and con jobs throughout his long trail across the United States, it would seem to many people that he would face a long list of criminal charges. Now that the FBI, Los Angeles and Boston police investigators have all confirmed that “Clark Rockefeller” is in fact Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, born in Germany, “Rockefeller” (I will continue to refer to him under this name until I verify FBI reports,) poses an appealing target for prosecutors, most importantly because he remains a ‘person of interest’ in the disappearance and suspected murders of Jonathan and Linda Sohus of San Marino, California in August 1985. The Sohus’ were Rockefeller’s landlords at the time. Shortly after the Sohus’ disappearance, Rockefeller had dug a large pit in the backyard of the Sohus’ property (where Rockefeller lived in the Sohus’ renovated garage.) At the time, Rockefeller told at least one person he had dug the pit due to “plumbing problems.” Nine years later, in 1994, the then owners of the property were excavating the backyard as part of work on an in-ground swimming pool, and workers discovered human remains (of a man) stuffed into a bag. The remains were never definitively identified.

So what happens now? Can Rockefeller be charged with the murder of at least Jonathan Sohus? That’s not as easily said as done. First, let me explain the charges Rockefeller can be, and is now, charged with in Massachusetts. At present, those charges are: 1) Felony parental kidnapping; 2) Assault; 3) Assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. These charges all stem from Rockefeller’s forcible abduction of his daughter Reigh from Boston Common in July, during a supervised custodial visit of his daughter with a social worker from the Massachusetts Department of Social Services. The most serious of those charges, the count for felony parental kidnapping, carries a penalty of up to twenty years in state prison. Rockefeller remains in custody in the Suffolk County House of Correction in Boston pending trial on those charges, so he isn’t going anywhere for the time being.

But what of his living a life of aliases for the past thirty years, and what of the highly suggestive evidence implicating him in the disappearance and presumed murders of Jonathan and Linda Sohus? Bringing criminal charges in these two areas is much more difficult. The reasons? First, as to the living a life under various aliases: While it may surprise you, using an alias is not a crime in most states. Unless a clear intent to defraud (usually in a business or commercial setting,) can be demonstrated on the part of the part of the person using an alias, the act of using an alias is not, in and of itself, a crime. Secondly, as to the issue of the disappearance and presumed murders of Jonathan and Linda Sohus, bringing murder charges and successfully obtaining a conviction against Rockefeller – based on the evidence that exists as of today’s post – would be extremely difficult. Reason Number 1) As of today’s date, no eyewitnesses to the Sohus’ disappearance or presumed murders have come forward. 2) Successfully identifying the buried remains discovered in the Sohus’ former backyard, even using DNA analysis, may not be possible, due in large measure to the fact that Jonathan Sohus was adopted, and no living relatives have yet been identified to come forward to avail themselves of DNA testing. 3) Much of the evidence gathered in the 1985 investigation of the Sohus’ disappearance has been reportedly lost or destroyed.

As of this post, the evidence linking Rockefeller to the Sohus’ disappearance, while certainly suggestive, is entirely circumstantial. It is nowhere near the level or quality of evidence required to obtain a conviction on murder charges. That may be highly frustrating to police investigators, but it is the legal reality.

Stay tuned for more developments later on this interesting case.