A small, bespectacled German immigrant who invented a glamorous life for himself in the United States by posing as an heir to the fabled Rockefeller fortune was sentenced Thursday to 27 years to life in prison for a California cold-case murder.
Representing himself after firing his lawyers, Christian Gerhartsreiter, 52, asserted that he did not commit the mid-1980s murder of John Sohus in the wealthy city of San Marino and asked to read a voluminous motion he had submitted to the court. When Superior Court Judge George Lomeli refused, he withdrew the motion.
Gerhartsreiter, who fooled friends, lovers and a wife during an extraordinary three-decade charade, entered the courtroom balancing in his arms a mountain of transcripts from his trial. He submitted a brief sentencing memorandum asking that he be given time served and probation. The judge rejected that.
The hearing was marked by an emotional statement from Sohus’ sister, who said some questions in the case will never be answered. She said that until his dying day, her father always asked, “Why John?”
Asked if he had any last words for the court, Gerhartsreiter said, “I can only say again I want to assert my innocence. I did not commit the crime for which I was convicted.”