Name Dropper: Investigating the Clark Rockefeller Mystery

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Join us in the Cal State Los Angeles teaching crime lab for an afternoon’s inquiry into the development of the science of forensic investigation in the L.A. area.

We are delighted to announce the debut crime lab appearance of crime reporter Frank Girardot, author of Name Dropper: Investigating the Clark Rockefeller Mystery.

Join Frank in the Cal State Los Angeles teaching crime lab, as he presents in depth on the fascinating Clark Rockefeller mystery, and offers a selection of memorable incidents from his crime reporter’s notebook.

Presentation One:

Frank’s first presentation will be on Clark Rockefeller, which is the tale of a teenaged German immigrant who remade himself into a welcome and respected member of Boston’s wealthiest neighborhood. The story might have followed that oft-told American tale of opportunity for all, but like all good Hollywood scripts, the tale of Clark Rockefeller had a dark twist. Namely murder.

In April 2013, Rockefeller, whose real name is Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, was convicted in the 1985 slaying of John Sohus. Gerhartsreiter didn’t only kill Sohus, he buried the trisected body in the backyard of a home in San Marino — one of L.A. wealthiest neighborhoods. And then he vanished along with Sohus’ new wife Linda, a 6-foot, 200-pound, red-headed Amazon with a flair for dark science fiction and strange fantasy.

He may have left San Marino, but Gerhartsreiter’s quest to become a member of wealthy and privileged American society continued. During the height of the Reagan Administration he worked under the assumed name of Christopher Crowe as a broker for some of Wall Street’s toniest firms. When the cops came looking for him, Crowe became Rockefeller and embarked upon one of the greatest cons ever pulled on high society. As Rockefeller, the onetime immigrant had a pad down the street from the United Nations. He hobnobbed with celebrities, collected art and bragged about his dogs.

Rockefeller eventually married Sandy Boss, a respected financial analyst with a seven-figure annual income. But when the couple got divorced and Clark kidnapped their daughter, the past came knocking.

The murder case relied heavily on circumstantial evidence that singularly might not have amounted to a conviction. Taken together the evidence, which included blood, fingerprints, old ID cards and a stolen car, was solid. What resulted in the conviction? Probably a simple light shone on a plastic bag sold in a university bookstore for a very limited period of time. The man once known as Rockefeller is now simply Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, 52, a resident of a medium security prison in the San Joaquin Valley serving out a 25-to-life sentence for killing John Sohus.

As for Linda? She has never resurfaced.

For Frank’s second lecture, he will lower his guard, roll up his sleeves, and look back on three decades in the newspaper business reporting on criminal investigations and the law enforcement agencies which conduct them, distilling for us the best and the worst, like how a murderous tagger might as well have signed his name at the crime scene, or the paramedics who left brain matter on a dead man’s driveway for his family to clean up, or a con-man who used Craigslist to bilk dozens of needy would-be renters, and what still keeps him up at night: an unsolved double murder in Monrovia that occurred during a ride-along in the 1990s.

ABOUT FRANK GIRARDOT: Frank Girardot is the editor of the Pasadena Star-News. Born in Detroit, Michigan, raised in the Silicon Valley, he got start as a copy boy in the late 1980s. Working as a newspaper reporter and editor in Los Angeles since 1989, he has covered floods, fires, explosions, strikes, plane crashes, rapes, suicides, amnesia victims, political conventions, and the murder trial of OJ Simpson. Favorite pastime is following a good murder, as is evidenced in his new book, Name Dropper: Investigating the Clark Rockefeller Mystery.