LOS ANGELES (AP) — A notorious Rockefeller impostor was depicted Monday by a prosecutor as a master manipulator who "always had a lie in his back pocket to explain things," but slipped up and left clues that he was a killer.
"This isn't a movie, a book, a TV show, a docudrama," Deputy District Attorney Habib Balian said in his closing argument, referring to the fact that the case has been turned into all of those things over the years.
"This case is about two people who lived and died," Balian said.
Defendant Christian Gerhartsreiter is charged only with the murder of John Sohus in suburban San Marino, but the prosecutor has been allowed to say he believes Gerhartsreiter also killed Sohus' wife, who remains missing after nearly three decades.
"She's dead," Balian said repeatedly as he described the disappearance of Linda Sohus and her husband, John — newlyweds he said had no reason to vanish.
The bones of John Sohus were unearthed in the backyard of his mother's former house in San Marino a decade after he and his wife disappeared.
Gerhartsreiter lived as a tenant on the property in 1984 and 1985.
The man who then called himself Chris Chichester vanished around the same time the couple disappeared in 1985, according to witnesses.
As part of his closing argument, Balian used a Powerpoint presentation that showed pieces of a jigsaw puzzle falling into place.
Balian predicted that the defense would seek to paint Linda Sohus as the murderer of her husband.
"They're going to batter her over and over and say she was the mastermind," Balian said in his presentation. "But all the evidence in this case is going to point you to the fact that only one person was the mastermind. ... He is charged with murder."
However, defense attorney Jeffrey Denner was less demeaning of Linda Sohus than he was of his own client. He said Gerhartsreiter, a German immigrant, was a white-collar criminal with a long list of offenses including identity theft and immigration fraud.
"Over a period of time in this country, he committed a lot of crimes with which he was never charged," Denner said. "It's no wonder he would want to stay under the radar."
But the lawyer said his client had not been running from a murder investigation.
Denner noted that no trace evidence was scientifically connected to the defendant, and he suggested it was more likely that Linda Sohus had a "dark side" of her life that led her to kill her husband. But he offered no evidence to support that contention.