LOS ANGELES - A German man who had masqueraded as a Rockefeller heir will stand trial starting March 11 in the 1985 killing of a San Marino man.
Attorneys for Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, 51, aka Clark Rockefeller, said Wednesday they plan to build their case around the possibility that the dead man's wife was the culprit.
Both John and Linda Sohus disappeared in February 1985. John Sohus' remains were unearthed in 1994 by a work crew digging a pool in the backyard of a home in San Marino. Sohus, 26, at the time of his disappearance, was the son of Gerhartsreiter's one-time landlady.
At the time of the body's discovery, Gerhartsreiter was living in New York as Clark Rockefeller, a bon vivant who bragged about his modern art collection and was preparing to marry Sandra Boss, an up-and-coming superstar in New York's financial world.
"We're seeking to argue that Linda Sohus, the wife, is potentially a reasonable (suspect) or conceivably the murderer in this case," Boston defense attorney R. Brad Bailey told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George Lomeli.
Wearing a blue jailhouse jumpsuit - shirt neatly tucked into frayed, long pants - Gerhartsreiter sat silently through much of the 15-minute hearing.
The parties appeared in court to settle several pre-trial issues including whether statements Gerhartsreiter made to police and reporters following his 2008 arrest on suspicion of parental abduction could be presented to a jury.
In motions filed by Bailey and attorney Jeffrey Denner, Gerhartsreiter's attorneys painted a picture of their client as having deep psychological problems that prevented him from acting rationally.
Psychologist Catherine Howe of Massachusetts said her review of statements made by Gerhartsreiter showed him to be suffering from a deep-seated mental illness.
"It is my opinion that the severity of his disorder rendered him unable to refrain from making incriminating statements," Howe wrote. "This disorder of thought and judgement impaired his capacity to protect himself, to recognize the need for self protection and to recognize the potential consequences of the statements that he made."
The motion also contains a statement from Gerhartsreiter - signed Clark Rockefeller - in which he says he was never evaluated by mental health professionals prior to his TV and newspaper interviews.
"It was not my decision to appear for these interviews with the media," he wrote. "I am told that I made inculpatory statements in these interviews."