“Where you going, Clark?” asked the agent. “I’m going to get a turkey sandwich,” he said. It would be the last lie he told before 20 agents with assault rifles wrestled him to the ground.
The 2008 kidnapping that capped one of the longest, most fantastic impersonation cons of the 20th
century won't keep the Man in the Rockefeller Suit behind bars for long. But what about the discovery of his link to skeletal remains from a family that vanished twenty-five years ago and 2,500 miles away?
In July 2008, the man calling himself Clark Rockefeller, a wealthy man-about-town and minor scion of the eponymous old American clan, tugged his non-custodial daughter away from a social worker in Boston and into a getaway limo so fast that he hit her head on the car doorframe. His ex-wife, Sandra Boss
, told authorities that she had not a single piece of data that might record his existence as a real person.
In Berlin, Connecticut, Steve Savio told the press that he was "100 percent certain"
that Rockefeller was Christian Reiter, a high school student who lived with his family in 1980. Over in Greenwich, people knew him as “this guy, Christopher Crowe,” who was fired from the brokerage firm S. N. Phelps and Co. after someone discovered that his Social Security number actually belonged to the serial killer Son of Sam
. In New York, one former colleague at Nikko Securities International, Richard Barnett, said bluntly: "The man knew very little about corporate bonds."
In Wisconsin, Amy Jersild Palmer's husband became angry with Los Angeles County detectives after they insisted that back in 1981, she had married the film student who would be known as Chris Gerhart. "I just kept telling them, I don't recognize these pictures at all," Palmer said. "Finally they left." The woman who actually married [him], Amy Jersild Duhnke, 49, of Milwaukee, was unavailable for comment.
("We don't always make the best decisions when we're young,"
her sister told reporters.)
In San Marino, California, "when I see the picture, right away I knew it was the guy. The hair, the head — I worked on that head for years
," said Jann Eldnor, who cut the hair of the bon vivant
baronet of Chichester just before Sir Christopher left San Marino in 1985, after producing a cable television show, going on an odd date
, doing a fine arts degree at USC, and digging a pit in his landlords' backyard
Sir Christopher's landlords, John and Linda Sohus, seemed to have abruptly ditched town for Paris
only months before he did. Linda had been telling people they were headed to New York for a job interview, but in April, Linda's boss got a postcard from the couple that looked like Linda had written it. Postmarked from France, it read, "Hi Lydia — Not quite New York, but not bad — See you later — Linda & John."
The Sohus couple never returned to San Marino. In 1994, human remains from a man of John Sohus' height and build were found in the backyard. A missing renter was a person of interest, police said.
Despite some evidence that she may have been alive after her disappearance, Linda's whereabouts are still unknown
Six days after the abduction, kidnapper and girl were found in Baltimore, where ship's captain Chip Smith from Chile and daughter Muffy had purchased a $432,000 home
and Obsidian Realty owner Chip McLaughlin had paid $10,000 cash for a boat after letting himself and the boat's owner into the Obsidian offices after hours
A week later, in a village near the German Alps, Alexander Gerhartsreiter stood in his family's tidy Bavarian home
. A news reporter handed him a photograph of Clark Rockefeller. "It seems you found my brother,"
he gasped. "It's quite shocking. It's very shocking... I don't know what to say.
" Very simply, Irmgard Gerhartsreiter said after learning about her son's situation, "I am shocked. He should be dead to me."
Said his brother, "I think Germany was too small for him."
Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter
, born in 1961 in a small town in Bavaria, lost a sentencing appeal on May 19, 2010. He will be released from prison by 2013. In the meantime, Los Angeles County investigators have been refused permission to interview him
on the disappearance of Linda and John Sohus.
I wrote this post after rereading