May 27, 2009
Posted: 10:10 PM ET
BOSTON, Massachusetts–Jury selection wrapped up Wednesday in a custodial kidnapping case that gripped the nation last summer. A man who posed as Clark Rockefeller was on the lam for a week with his then seven-year-old daughter before authorities captured him in Baltimore, Maryland on August 2, 2008. What those authorities learned during that week constitutes the most fascinating back story of any trial I’ve covered.
Mug shot of Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter aka Clark Rockefeller
He is no Rockefeller. He’s Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, a German native, who came to the United States in 1978. He’s lived from California to New York under at least three long-term identities.
From at least 1982 until 1985, he was Christopher Chichester, an aspiring filmmaker who claimed to be of British royalty (included in his fictitious ancestry was Lord Mountbatten), and who boarded at a home in San Marino, CA. In the late 1980s, he was Christopher Crowe of Greenwich, CT and New York City, who worked at a brokerage firm, as a corporate bondsman and briefly at a securities firm. From 1993 until shortly before his arrest in 2008, he lived as Clark Rockefeller, an art collector who also helped Third World countries manage their debt.
As Rockefeller, he married Sandra Boss in 1995, a successful businesswoman and the household’s sole breadwinner. In 2001, their daughter, Reigh, was born and in 2007 their marriage ended in divorce. Boss was onto her husband, especially after a private investigator questioned whether he was, indeed, a Rockefeller. Following the divorce, Gerhartsreiter was given only three supervised visits a year with his daughter: spring, summer, and Thanksgiving. He cancelled the first visit scheduled for March of 2008. The summer visit was his first one, and it was on that visit that he kidnapped his daughter and, at the same time, allegedly assaulted the social worker who was supervising the visit.
According to authorities, a plan was in place by July 2008. Gerhartsreiter had already purchased a carriage house in Baltimore, MD under the name of Chip Smith. He told the realtor that he was a single parent and that his daughter Muffy would join him. On July 27, he duped two drivers into participating in the kidnapping. One driver took him partway across Boston. Another drove him to Manhattan. Six days later, living as Chip Smith, he was lured from the Baltimore carriage house, arrested and charged with kidnapping, assault and battery, and giving a false name. He now says he is not criminally responsible by reason of mental disease or defect; in other words, he was criminally insane at the time.
This intriguing story will continue to unfold in the next few weeks in a Boston courtroom. But the trial judge is not permitting jurors to hear everything about Gerhartsreiter’s past. One key fact they cannot know is that a grand jury in Los Angeles County is currently hearing evidence presumably linking Gerhartsreiter to a 1985 double homicide when he lived there as Christopher Chichester.
Opening statements are scheduled for Thursday morning. Among the first witnesses will be the alleged assault victim, social worker Howard Yaffe, a private investigator who was tailing the supervised visit on the day of the kidnapping and Aileen Ang, who drove Gerhartsreiter and his daughter to New York City that day while an Amber Alert went out across the country.
–Beth Karas, In Session correspondent
Filed under: Uncategorized
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