LOS ANGELES (AP) — A defense attorney told a Los Angeles jury Monday that the missing wife of a man slain a quarter century ago could be the real killer, rather than the Rockefeller impostor now on trial.
Attorney Brad Bailey, disclosing his defense for the first time, made his assertion after a prosecutor said he will prove a cold-case murder allegation against Christian Gerhartsreiter, a German immigrant who spent years moving through U.S. society under a series of aliases, most notoriously posing as a member of the fabled Rockefeller family.
The prosecution's opening statement offered no suggestion of a motive for the 1985 killing. It focused instead on the many identities and fabulous assertions of a man who posed for decades as Clark Rockefeller.
Bailey responded that every piece of circumstantial evidence outlined by Deputy District Attorney Habib Balian could point to Linda Sohus as the killer of her husband, John.
She vanished at the same time that he did in 1985 but no trace of her has been found. John Sohus' bones were dug up from the backyard of a home where Gerhartsreiter lived as a tenant on Sohus' mother's property.
Bailey said there are no witnesses to the killing or burial of Sohus and prosecutors have little more evidence than the bizarre behavior and multiple identities of Gerhartsreiter to paint him as a murderer.
"It's just as reasonable to conclude that John Sohus was killed by someone else...his still missing wife," said Bailey.
If jurors accept that theory, he said, that provides reasonable doubt of Gerhartsreiter's guilt.
He acknowledged that the defendant was "a strange guy," but he said Linda Sohus also acted strangely and may have had a motive to kill her husband.
The prosecution's outline, however, offered a web of circumstantial evidence.
Balian told of how Gerhartsreiter came to the United States, began inventing new identities and charmed his way into the lives of people from coast to coast.
At issue is what happened to the Sohus couple who befriended him in 1985 and vanished shortly afterward. The young husband's bones were eventually unearthed from his backyard decades later, but his wife has never been found.