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Fake Rockefeller murder case in hands of US jury

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

A jury in Los Angeles on Tuesday deliberated the fate of a German man who posed as a member of the famed Rockefeller family after allegedly killing his landlord in California.

Christian Gerhartsreiter is charged with murdering his landlord John Sohus, who went missing in 1985 but whose remains were only found nine years later in the back yard of his home in the upscale LA neighborhood of San Marino.

Before being sequestered, the jurors heard a final plea to convict Gerhartsreiter, who also passed himself off as an English nobleman and a Hollywood producer for two decades after the alleged killing.

"I am asking you on behalf of the people of the state of California: Hold this man accountable for his action," prosecutor Habib Balian told the jury in the downtown Los Angeles Superior Court.

Balian rejected the claim made by Gerhartsreiter's defense lawyers in their closing statement on Monday that Sohus' mysteriously missing wife Linda could just as easily have killed her husband.

"This is not a game. This is a search for the truth," the prosecutor said, adding that the "speculation" about Linda Sohus' possible involvement in the crime was "ridiculous."

Balian also told the jury that the absence of a motive for Gerhartsreiter does not count as proof of his innocence.

"He wanted John dead, for whatever reason," the prosecutor said.

When John and Linda Sohus vanished in February 1985, Gerhartsreiter was living in a guest house owned by John Sohus' mother. The prosecution believes he also killed Linda Sohus but he is only charged with the man's murder.

After the alleged crime, Gerhartsreiter moved to Connecticut and changed his name a number of times, eventually becoming Clark Rockefeller and getting married, fooling even his wife for 12 years.

The impostor was sentenced to a five-year prison term in 2009 for kidnapping his seven-year-old daughter, a trial that ultimately led investigators in Los Angeles to connect the dots in the Sohus murder case.

If found guilty, Gerhartsreiter -- who was born in Germany in 1961 -- faces a possible prison sentence of 26 years to life, according to the prosecution.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130409/fake-rockefeller-murder-case-hands-us-jury