Christian Gerhartsreiter

Christian Gerhartsreiter
Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter
Born Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter
21 February 1961 (1961-02-21) (age 50)
Siegsdorf, Bavaria, West Germany
Alias(es) Clark Rockefeller
Chris C. Crowe
Chris Chichester
Charles Smith
Chip Smith
Christopher Chichester
Conviction(s) Parental kidnapping (March 12, 2009)
Assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (March 12, 2009)
Penalty Four to five years in prison for kidnapping and two to three years for assault and battery with dangerous weapon concurrently
Spouse Amy Jersild Duhnke (1981-1992) (divorced)
Sandra Boss (1995-2007) (divorced)
Parents Simon and Irmgard Gerhartsreiter
Children Reigh Boss

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter (born February 21, 1961) is a German man who moved to the United States as a teenager to study, and thereafter assumed many aliases. Using the false name Clark Rockefeller, he married a Harvard Business School graduate student named Sandra Boss. The couple had homes in Boston and New Hampshire, and lived a prosperous lifestyle solely on Boss's high income as a business consultant. Boss eventually determined her husband had lied to her extensively, and sought a divorce. After their estrangement, Gerhartsreiter kidnapped their daughter, Reigh Storrow Mills Boss, in July 2008 and was arrested six days later. Investigations determined that Gerhartsreiter had wildly embellished his background to give the impression that he was born into great wealth, as a member of the Rockefeller family. He was later convicted and imprisoned on the kidnapping charge, which is presently under appeal. A book by Mark Seal about Gerhartsreiter, The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: the astonishing rise and spectacular fall of a serial imposter, was published in 2011.

In March 2011, he was charged with a 1985 murder in Los Angeles County, California, where he had lived at that time.


Early life

Gerhartsreiter reportedly came to the United States as a West German foreign exchange student in 1979. Although his family stated that Christian Gerhartsreiter was born on February 21, 1961, he maintains that he was born on February 29, 1960.[1] Gerhartsreiter also told Boston police that his mother is Ann Carter, an American child actress of the 1940s, which Carter has denied.[2]

Travel to the USA and marriages

Gerhartsreiter first married Amy Jersild Duhnke in 1981 in Madison, Wisconsin, allegedly so he could obtain his green card. Duhnke filed for divorce in 1992 and, according to the divorce papers, claimed that Gerhartsreiter left her the day after the wedding.[3] In 2007, Gerhartsreiter lost custody of his daughter, Reigh, by Sandra Boss, whom he had married in a Quaker ceremony that had no legal status. The child was born as Reigh Storrow Mills Rockefeller, and was nicknamed 'Snooks' (after the character in The Baby Snooks Show radio program), but her mother had the child's surname changed after her reported divorce from Gerhartsreiter, in part because he refused to provide proof of his identity. During the case, Boss, a high-earning McKinsey senior executive who had graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Business School, accused him of lying about being a member of the Rockefeller family.[4] Members of the Rockefeller family have also denied any relation to the man.[5] Boss later testified in June 2009 at his trial that Gerhartsreiter agreed to give her custody of their daughter Reigh following the divorce. She testified that he also agreed to supervised visits three times a year with Reigh in return for an $800,000 settlement, two cars, her engagement ring, and a dress that he had given her. Boss moved with Reigh to London following the divorce.

Boss testified that Gerhartsreiter was charming and that she believed the stories he told her at the beginning of their relationship. Later, however, he became emotionally abusive and there was a "lot of anger and yelling" in their household. Although Boss earned all of the family income, she testified that Gerhartsreiter had complete control of the family's finances and other aspects of her day-to-day life.

She hired a private investigator in 2006 and discovered that he was not who he claimed to be, though she did not learn his real name at that time. She said he was unpleasant to live with, but did not think he was delusional.[6] Prior to the divorce, Gerhartsreiter had lived with Boss and their child in Cornish, New Hampshire, where he used his supposed family ties to bolster his reputation, telling friends and neighbors that he was a wealthy Yale graduate who owned a business in Canada.[7] Gerhartsreiter, under the name Clark Rockefeller, was also a member of Boston's ultra-exclusive Algonquin Club, where he spent much of his time making additional connections and infiltrating high society. He resigned as one of the Club's Directors in April 2008.[8]

Alleged abduction and apprehension

Authorities allege that on July 27, 2008, Gerhartsreiter abducted his daughter at about 12:45 p.m. in a black sport utility vehicle. Boston police searched the area of the incident without success, and Massachusetts State Police issued an Amber Alert just before 5 p.m. Later that night police issued a warrant for Gerhartsreiter's arrest. He was charged with custodial kidnapping, assault and battery, and assault with a deadly weapon — the sport utility vehicle.[9]

Boston police said the father, daughter, and a social worker were in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood at the intersection of Marlborough and Arlington streets, traveling on foot from the Four Seasons Hotel Boston to the Boston Common when the sport utility vehicle drove up. Gerhartsreiter allegedly grabbed Reigh, pushed the social worker aside, and jumped into the vehicle, which then sped off. The social worker, who police said works for an independent agency, grabbed onto the vehicle and was dragged a short distance before letting go. He was treated for minor injuries at Massachusetts General Hospital and released.

Police searched the immediate area and Logan International Airport that day. The same day police received calls reporting sightings of Reigh in Dedham, Hyde Park, and even New York's Grand Central Station. Police reported they followed up on all leads, but had nothing solid by the end of the day.


On August 3, 2008, Gerhartsreiter was arrested in Baltimore, Maryland on charges of kidnapping and assault and battery after a week-long search. He had recently purchased an apartment there for about $450,000 under the name Charles "Chip" Smith. With the help of the owner of a local marina where Gerhartsreiter had apparently kept a catamaran for the past nine years, FBI agents were able to lure him out of the apartment with a telephone call telling him the boat was taking on water. He was arrested as he left the apartment briefly before Reigh was safely recovered by authorities from inside.[10]

Alexander Gerhartsreiter, who lives in Bergen, identified Rockefeller as his brother, stating that they are the sons of Simon and Irmgard Gerhartsreiter, a painter and homemaker.[11][12] On August 15, 2008, the FBI, the Massachusetts State Police, the Boston Police Department, and the Suffolk County District Attorney announced[13] confirmation of the true identity of the individual who has used the aliases Clark Rockefeller, Chris C. Crowe, Chris Chichester, Charles Smith, and Chip Smith, among others. According to their report, the individual's true name is Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter. Gerhartsreiter was conclusively identified by means of forensic examinations conducted by the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia. When Gerhartsreiter, using the name Clark Rockefeller, was arrested, his fingerprint impressions were taken by FBI agents in Baltimore and by Boston Police when he was returned to Massachusetts. Those fingerprints were compared to latent fingerprints lifted from a variety of sources. They match a latent print lifted from a wine glass in Boston collected at the time of the search for "Rockefeller" and his daughter earlier in the month. Those fingerprints also match a latent print developed from a document in Gerhartsreiter's immigration file from the early 1980s. Although there were no fingerprint cards or inked impressions in the immigration file, an FBI laboratory was able to develop latent print impressions from a document in that file, which had been provided by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Through fingerprint analysis, the FBI has confirmed his identity. Gerhartsreiter went to great lengths to conceal his true identity from his wife, Sandra Boss. He repeatedly told her she should file her tax return as a single person, and later in their marriage, when his wife's firm required that a certified public accountant do her taxes, he found an accountant for her. After their divorce, Boss learned that he had told their accountant he was her brother so that the accountant would continue filing single tax returns for her.[14]


On October 2, 2008, at a hearing requested by defense attorney Stephen Hrones, bail was revoked. Hrones had requested the hearing in order to seek a reduction from the $50 million cash bail under which the defendant had previously been held. Instead, the judge ordered the defendant to be held without bail.[15]

On September 3, 2008, Gerhartsreiter was charged with furnishing a false name to a law enforcement officer following an arrest.[16][17] His lawyers later argued that he did not do this for dishonest purposes.[18]

On February 13, 2009, Gerhartsreiter's attorneys filed notice that they intended to use an insanity defense for him.[19]

During the trial, conducted in Boston in May and June 2009, Gerhartsreiter's defense team told jurors that Gerhartsreiter believed his daughter had communicated with him telepathically from London, where she and her mother now live, begging him to rescue her.[20] Two defense experts testified that they have diagnosed Gerhartsreiter with delusional disorder, grandiose type, and narcissistic personality disorder. One of the defense experts, Dr. Keith Ablow, testified that Gerhartsreiter told him that his father had been emotionally abusive during his childhood. Dr. James Chu, a psychiatrist for the prosecution, testified that he had diagnosed Gerhartsreiter with a "'mixed personality disorder', with narcissistic and anti-social traits" but felt that Gerhartsreiter had exaggerated his symptoms of mental illness and was capable of knowing right from wrong, particularly since he allegedly meticulously planned the details of the abduction well in advance. Gerhartsreiter did not take the witness stand.[21] Closing arguments concluded on June 8,[22] and on June 12[23] the jury found Gerhartsreiter guilty of the charges of parental kidnapping and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. He was found not guilty of the charge of assault and battery and of using a false name.

The judge sentenced him to four to five years in state prison on the kidnapping count and a concurrent two to three years on the assault charge.

Charged with murder

Gerhartsreiter was initially identified as a "person of interest" by police in the 1985 disappearance and possible murder of Jonathan Sohus, a California man whose guesthouse he lived in as a tenant in the upscale community of San Marino, during the mid-1980s. Bones believed to belong to Sohus were found in 1994 buried in the backyard of the home he had lived in with his wife, Linda, who is also missing. Sohus's family members said the bones match Jonathan Sohus's general description but, since he was adopted, there was no way to compare his DNA against that of biological family members and arrive at a conclusive identity.[24]

Gerhartsreiter, who was then using the alias Christopher Chichester, reportedly told people that Jonathan and Linda Sohus had traveled to Europe. Their family reportedly received a postcard from the couple sent from France after Jonathan and Linda Sohus had disappeared, though its authenticity has been questioned. "Chichester" was pulled over by police in Greenwich, Connecticut, in the late 1980s driving a pickup truck that had belonged to Jonathan Sohus, but he left the area before police could interview him. Police had no proof that Jonathan and Linda Sohus were dead or had not left voluntarily.

News reports indicated that a grand jury was to be convened in the spring of 2009 to examine the evidence in the Sohus case. The Hon. Frank Gaziano, judge in Gerhartsreiter's parental kidnapping trial, barred prosecutors from presenting evidence about the Sohus case to avoid prejudicing jurors against Gerhartsreiter.[25]

On March 15, 2011, Los Angeles County prosecutors charged Gerhartsreiter with the murder of Jonathan Sohus.[26]

On October 17, 2011, an Alhambra Superior Court judge ruled that Gerhartsreiter will appear in court there on January 18, 2012 for a preliminary hearing where a judge will decide if enough evidence exists for the case to go to trial.[27]

"Clark Rockefeller" in popular culture

Lifetime premiered the movie Who Is Clark Rockefeller? at 9pm EST on March 13, 2010, with Eric McCormack in the title role and Sherry Stringfield as Sandra Boss. The DVD was released on September 14, 2010.[28][29]


  1. ^ "Clark Rockefeller probe points to Germany". The Boston Herald. 2008-08-08. 
  2. ^ "'Rockefeller Is Not My Son,' Actress Says". 2007-08-29. 
  3. ^ Fresh Details on Mystery Man Clark Rockefeller as Trial Opens, ABC News, May 26, 2009
  4. ^ Rockefeller returns to Boston to face a kidnapping charge. Retrieved on 2008-8-5
  5. ^ Depressed during holidays, Clark Rockefeller spoke of kidnapping Retrieved 2008-8-11
  6. ^ Ex 'Mrs. Rockefeller': I had a pretty big blind spot", CNN, June 2, 2009
  7. ^ The Man in the Rockefeller Suit; Vanity Fair, January 2009.
  8. ^ archived Algonquin Club Board of Directors page
  9. ^ Guilfoil, John M. (2008-07-28). "Police search for girl abducted during father's visit". The Boston Globe. 
  10. ^ ABC News: Who is Clark Rockefeller? Retrieved on 2008-8-5
  11. ^ LA authorities: 'Rockefeller' is wanted German Retrieved on 2008-08-20
  12. ^ Town struggles to understand Rockefeller case, Boston Globe, August 10, 2008
  13. ^
  14. ^ 'Rockefeller' seeks dismissal of false name charge, Boston Globe, March 13, 2009
  15. ^ Judge: No bail enough to hold ‘Rockefeller’ Retrieved on 2008-10-05
  16. ^ "'Clark Rockefeller' charged with using false name", WHDH News
  17. ^ Massachusetts General Laws IV:I:268:34A
  18. ^ "Judge in kidnapping case: False name charge will go to jury", Suffolk County District Attorney's Office, April 27, 2009.
  19. ^ 'Clark Rockefeller' Plans Insanity Defense in Kidnapping Trial, Fox News, February 13, 2009
  20. ^ Clark Rockefeller says he has telepathic link to Snooks, Boston Herald, May 29, 2009
  21. ^ Final 'Rockefeller' trial witness: he's not insane, Associated Press, June 5, 2009
  22. ^ 'Clark Rockefeller' Kidnapping Case Goes to Jury, ABC News, June 8, 2009
  23. ^ Jury convicts Rockefeller in kidnapping trial The Boston Globe, June 12, 2009
  24. ^ DNA tests underway on bones in Rockefeller case, Associated Press, August 14, 2008
  25. ^ Grand Jury Probes Murder Case Against Rockefeller, WBZTV, March 25, 2009
  26. ^ "L.A. Now". Los Angeles Times. 
  27. ^ Back Bay Patch. 
  28. ^ Who Is Clark Rockefeller? at IMDB
  29. ^ Who Is Clark Rockefeller? official site

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