Court sentences German who posed as a Rockefeller to 27 years in prison | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 15.08.2013
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Court sentences German who posed as a Rockefeller to 27 years in prison

A Los Angeles court has handed a 27-year prison sentence to a German-born man who posed as a member of America's wealthy Rockefeller family. The imposter was found guilty of killing his landlady's son in the 1980s.

Christian Gerhartsreiter, 52, asserted his innocence once more on Thursday before a Los Angeles judge read out his sentence.

"I didn't commit the crime," Gerhartsreiter said.

The presiding judge pronounced the German conman guilty of the murder of John Sohus, the son of Gerhartsreiter's landlady in Los Angeles almost 30 years ago, and gave him the maximum sentence he could receive.

Sohus and his wife, Linda, vanished in 1985. Nearly a decade later, their remains were found in the backyard of the upscale guesthouse the defendant had been renting from Sohus' mother. He was living as an English aristocrat named Chris Chichester at the time of their disappearance.

Gerhartsreiter subsequently moved to the US East Coast where he expanded his portfolio of false identities - including as a movie producer - to include his most famous act of all: assuming the identity of Clark Rockefeller, the supposed heir to one of America's wealthiest families.

The defendant's identity unraveled in 2009 when authorities arrested him for kidnapping his seven-year-old daughter during a custody battle. That trial drew the attention of investigators, who eventually linked him to the disappearance of the Sohus. He was indicted while serving jail time for the first abduction of his daughter.

Gerhartsreiter was not convicted for the murder of Linda Sohus, who remains missing.

His defense lawyer questioned the verdict on Thursday.

"The way he went through life deceiving people did not make him very likable to the jury," defense attorney Jeffrey Denner said. "But that doesn't make him a killer."

kms/dr (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)