Posted by: Jeffrey Thomas DeSocio, Digital News Editor / Producer - email
Los Angeles, CA -
(FOX 11 / CNS) A con man who once passed himself off as a member of the wealthy Rockefeller family was sentenced today to 27 years to life behind bars for murdering his San Marino landlady's son more than 28 years ago and burying the man's remains in the backyard.
Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, 52, professed his innocence just before being sentenced, saying, "... I want to assert my innocence ... I did not commit the crime (for which I was convicted).''
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli said he found no basis to grant a new trial motion filed by Gerhartsreiter, who withdrew the request after being advised he could not read the lengthy document aloud in court.
Gerhartsreiter was convicted April 10 of first-degree murder for the February 1985 slaying of John Sohus. Jurors also found true allegations that Gerhartsreiter used blunt and sharp objects to commit the killing.
Gerhartsreiter -- who has claimed to be a Rockefeller, an English nobleman and a Hollywood producer and who was known as Christopher Chichester at the time of Sohus' death -- lived in a guest house on the property at 1920 Lorain Road.
Sohus' buried remains were uncovered there in May 1994 by an excavation crew preparing to build a swimming pool on the property for a new owner. Gerhartsreiter was not charged in connection with the disappearance of Sohus' wife, who vanished at about the same time.
Defense attorneys argued during the trial that Linda Sohus may have been responsible for her husband's death, but Deputy District Attorney Habib Balian claimed evidence points to the defendant as having killed her, as well.
When asked after the verdict about a potential motive for the slaying, the prosecutor would only say, "The defendant, he wanted John Sohus dead, and he accomplished (it).''
John Sohus' sister, who attended the trial and sentencing, said "there is no closure'' for the family.
"John is still gone. What we do have are some answers, not all of them, but some. For those of us who loved John and Linda, we each had to come to terms with the probability of never having any answers. We were faced with the pain, emptiness and fear that their disappearance would remain a mystery,'' Ellen Sohus said.
"In 1994, we had some of the questions answered when John's remains were found buried in his own backyard. But so many questions remain unanswered. Why did you kill my brother? What happened to Linda? I believe Linda is dead and I believe that you are responsible for her death,'' she said, speaking directly to Gerhartsreiter.
She asked the judge to "hold Mr. Gerhartsreiter accountable for his choices, his actions and his decision to sacrifice my brother's life for his gain.''
Lomeli noted that Gerhartsreiter had asked in a brief sentencing memorandum to be sentenced to probation and time he had already served since his July 2011 arrest in connection with John Sohus' killing, but the defendant was "not eligible for a probationary sentence.''
When he was charged with the killing, Gerhartsreiter was jailed at the time in Massachusetts for kidnapping his own daughter. But he has completed that prison term, allowing him to remain in California to serve his term for Sohus' murder, according to Balian.
Gerhartsreiter -- who began acting as his own attorney after the trial -- has the option to raise the same issues on appeal that he brought up in the new trial motion that he withdrew, the judge said.
Lomeli ordered Gerhartsreiter to return to court Sept. 19 for a status hearing on restitution he may be ordered to pay the victim's family.