Tuesday, April 2, 2013
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The woman who married a notorious Rockefeller impostor and bore his child told jurors in his murder trial Tuesday her story of a 12-year-marriage to a man whose identity was a lie.
Sandy Boss said she was charmed by the bright, quirky man who called himself Clark Rockefeller and she believed everything he told her about himself.
They met in 1993 when she was studying for her MBA at Harvard and was invited to a cocktail party at his New York apartment. The theme was the game "Clue," and they came in costume.
"I was Miss Scarlett and he was Professor Plum," she recalled. "I liked him. I thought he was intelligent, very funny, quirky, flattering and complimentary. A good person to get to know."
They began dating and by 1994 she had graduated, had a finance job in New York and moved in with him. He told her he was an heir to the Rockefeller fortune but was on the outs with the rest of his relatives and never saw them. He said his parents had been killed in a car crash in 1978.
"I assumed that what he was telling me was true," she said. "I didn't have reason to think he was not the person he said he was."
When he proposed marriage in June 1994, she accepted and they married the next year.
But once they married, she said his charming demeanor dissipated and he became demanding of secrecy in all their affairs. He handled finances but she provided the funds and signed blank checks for him to use. She said he put charges on her credit cards and had none in his own name. He installed multiple phone lines and had their mail delivered to post office boxes. They moved frequently.
He also had an aversion to certain places. He refused to visit California which he said he hated and would never set foot in Connecticut. Unknown to her, he was under investigation in both places in connection with a missing persons case.
He is charged with the 1985 murder of John Sohus who disappeared from his San Marino, Calif., home with his wife, Linda. The man's bones were unearthed a decade later. Linda Sohus has never been found.
Boss didn't know her husband was a German immigrant named Christian Gerhartsreiter who had once lived in San Marino and was under investigation in the couple's disappearance.
He told her he was doing third world debt negotiations.
Their daughter was born in 2001, she said. But in 2007 Boss became aware that he was not Clark Rockefeller and she left him.
"I hired private investigators who told me they couldn't tell me who I was married to," she said.
Boss, 45, was composed on the witness stand but never mentioned her ex-husband's name, referring to him as "the defendant."
She lives in London with their 12-year-old daughter. A pretrial ruling barred prosecutors from asking her about his kidnapping of their daughter, which sent him to prison in 2009.
Defense attorneys deferred cross-examination of Boss until Wednesday.
Earlier, a key witness linked the defendant to a truck bought by the man he is charged with killing in California more than a quarter-century ago.
Christopher Bishop, who became an Episcopal priest, testified that in the 1980s he met a man who called himself Christopher Crowe. Bishop was a film school student and was told by his father, a priest, that there was a new young man in their Greenwich, Conn., community who was a filmmaker. He introduced them and they became friends.
Bishop said Crowe talked of producing films and one day he offered to give him a truck he said had been used on a production shoot. He suggested Bishop contact California to get license plates. But when he did, he said, he was told there was a lien on the vehicle for $6,000.
"I got a bright idea to buy a cheaper model of the same truck, take the plates off and register it. I was a poor film student then," the witness said sheepishly. He said he drove the truck around with fake plates and then abandoned it at a train station. He never saw it again, and it has never been found.
Bishop acknowledged lying about the saga when he was first questioned by police.
"I lied," he said. "I said I knew nothing about a truck. I was pretty panicked.... This was a person I trusted."
He added, "It was not my finest hour."
Bishop said the next time he talked to Crowe he told him a detective had been inquiring about him, and angrily asked, "Who the (expletive) are you?"
"He said, 'I gotta go,' and that's the last I saw of Chris until this case," the witness said.
Other witnesses have said victim John Sohus and his wife, Linda, bought the truck just before they vanished in 1985. At the time they lived in a suburban San Marino home owned by John Sohus' mother and defendant Gerhartsreiter — using the name Christopher Chichester — occupied a guest cottage.
Defense attorneys claim that victim John Sohus was not killed by their client but by his wife, who vanished at the same time he did.
There has been no evidence of a motive for either Gerhartsreiter or Linda Sohus to kill John Sohus.