Details of Disappearance
Linda and her husband, Jonathan Sohus
(sometimes called "John" in media accounts), disappeared from their home in the 1900 block of Lorain Road in San Marino, California on February 8, 1985. They said they were going to Connecticut to look for employment. They never returned home.
The couple was reported missing on April 8, two months after they were last seen. They left behind their four cats, and Linda left her job at the science fiction/fantasy bookstore Dangerous Visions. Authorities stated they had a happy marriage and weren't having any problems in their lives in 1985. They lived with Jonathan's mother, who died three years later.
There is some evidence that Linda was alive in the years following her disappearance. Some of Linda's friends and relatives received postcards supposedly written by her and mailed from France, but authorities were unable to authenticate the writing on the cards; handwriting experts disagree as to whether they were in Linda's writing or not. Her boss also received calls from a credit card company and an employer, asking her to serve as a reference for Linda.
At the time of their disappearances, the Sohuses were renting out a guest house on their property. Their tenant, Christopher Chichester, told John and Linda's friends and coworkers that they'd gone to Paris for an extended honeymoon, then that they were on the East Coast doing secret government work. Chichester himself disappeared before the police could interview him.
Around the time of the Sohuses' disappearances, neighbors reported a foul smell coming from the guest house chimney, and investigators later found a sizeable amount of blood in the house. A few months later, a friend of Chichester noticed a patch of disturbed ground near the guest house. He accepted Chichester's explanation that the digging had been due to plumbing problems.
In 1988, Chichester resurfaced in Connecticut, using the name Christopher Mountbatten Crowe. He tried, without success, to sell a white Nissan pickup truck belonging to Jonathan. Again, he left the area before the police could question him.
The Sohuses's property was eventually sold. In 1994, when the new owners were putting in a swimming pool, they found the partial skeleton of a small adult Caucasian male wrapped in three plastic bags. The man had died of blunt force trauma to the head.
The skeleton matched Jonathan's characteristics, but authorities were unable to identify it for years because there was no jawbone or teeth, and they didn't have a DNA sample from Jonathan's biological relatives. The skeleton was finally conclusively identified as his in 2010. Investigators excavated the property and used ground-penetrating radar to look for a second body, but they found nothing of interest.
The Sohus case received additional attention in 2008, when Clark Rockefeller kidnapped his young daughter during a custody dispute with his ex-wife. He assaulted the social worker supervising their visitation, fled and took the child from Massachusetts to Baltimore, Maryland, and was arrested there a week later.
Authorities determined that Clark Rockefeller and Christopher Chichester were the same person, and that his real identity was Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, born in West Germany in 1961.
Gerhartsreiter came to the United States as an exchange student when he was in his teens and subsequently took on a number of identities. He attended a high school in Connecticut and, for a short period, the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He married in Wisconsin in 1981, but his wife later said he left her the day after the wedding; she finally obtained a divorce in 1992.
Gerhartsreiter moved to California and started calling himself Christopher Chichester in 1983. He claimed he was a baronet, and gave the impression of being a wealthy, cultured individual. He adopted the Rockefeller identity in 1993 and posed as a member of the wealthy and prominent family of the same name.
His wife filed for divorce in 2006, after a twelve-year marriage. She moved to England with their daughter and her ex-husband was granted only three supervised visitations a year. It was during one of those visits that Gerhartsreiter abducted the child. He was sentenced to five years in prison for the kidnapping. Photos of him are posted with this case summary.
In March 2011, Gerhartsreiter was charged with Jonathan's murder. He was still serving his sentence in Massachusetts for kidnapping at the time.
He has not been charged in connection with Linda's disappearance. His attorney stated Gerhartsreiter remembered little of his life before 1993, barely knew the Sohuses and was not involved in their cases.
At his trial in 2013, Gerhartsreiter's defense admitted he had committed many crimes, but maintained he was innocent of murder. The defense suggested Linda had murdered her husband and then walked out of her life.
The prosecution's case against Gerhartsreiter was almost wholly circumstantial, no motive for the murder was suggested, and he did not testify. He was convicted of Jonathan's murder in April 2013. The prosecution believes Gerhartsreiter murdered Linda as well.
Linda was very interested in science fiction and belonged to the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. She also enjoyed painting animals and fantasy creatures under the pseudonym "Cody," and sometimes took commissions for paintings. Linda's case remains unsolved and foul play is suspected.