The alleged conman and convicted kidnapper inspired a TV movie starring Eric McCormack

By Howard Breuer
Updated March 15, 2011 07:35 PM
Credit: Essdras M Suarez/Landov

He was a smooth-talking grifter known as Clark Rockefeller – among other names – who made headlines and inspired a TV movie after he abducted his then 7-year-old daughter.

Now the man whose real name is Christian Gerhartsreiter is being labeled something else: accused murderer.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney charged Gerhartsreiter, 50, in a 1980s murder case, alleging he killed John Sohus of San Marino, Calif.

The DA also filed documents seeking Gerhartsreiter’s extradition from Massachusetts, where he’s serving a sentence after being convicted in his daughter’s abduction.

Once able to schmooze his way into high society by talking “like Niles on Frasier,” according to one acquaintance, Gerhartsreiter turned out to be no American blueblood at all, but a German-born conman, authorities say.

His 2008 arrest prompted authorities to explore his possible role in the long-cold case of the 1985 disappearance of John and wife Linda Sohus.

Gerhartsreiter (then calling himself Christopher Mountbatten Chichester), had rented the guest house on the property of John’s mother, Didi Sohus. John and Linda vanished after Gerhartsreiter says he drove them to the airport. Gerhartsreiter himself soon disappeared as well.

Family and friends of the Sohuses received postcards from Europe that appeared to be from Linda but were later assumed to be forgeries. In 1994, the new owners of the Sohus home found a skeleton buried in the yard; police speculated the remains belonged to John.

Gerhartstreiter, played by Eric McCormack in the TV movie last year, was not charged with murdering Linda Sohus. Prosecutors say they’ll seek a 26-years-to-life sentence, as well as $10 million bail.