'Rockefeller' saga a tale of multiple IDs

August 8, 2008 2:10:14 PM PDT
Clark Rockefeller may not be a real decendant of the oil tycoon, but if authorities and reports are to be believed, he sure was a lot of other things: A German student named Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, who lived with families in Connecticut until he wore thin their hospitality. A teen husband who left his wife in Wisconsin a day after they wed. A Wall Street bond salesman named Christopher Crowe, who talked a good game but rarely closed a deal.

A guesthouse tenant named Christopher Chichester, long suspected in the disappeareance and presumed deaths of the couple who owned the San Marino, Calif., home.

And Clark Rockefeller, a stay-at-home dad who lived in a $2 million brownstone in Boston's tony Beacon Hill neighborhood, until his wealthy wife divorced him when she grew suspicious of his background.

The twisted life of multiple identities unraveled after Rockefeller allegedly kidnapped his daughter, Reigh, on July 27 during a supervised visit in Boston. He was caught a week later in Baltimore. The girl was found safe and has been reunited with her mother.

Rockefeller refuses to speak to authorities as he remains jailed in Boston without bail. His attorney said Rockefeller can't remember anything before 1993. The Rockefeller family said he's not relation, and authorities can't find any record of Clark Rockefeller before 1993.

But they have found fingerprints.

Los Angeles police said Rockefeller's fingerprints matched those on an old license application submitted by Chichester, who has long been a suspect in the disappearance of Jonathan and Linda Sohus. They also believe Chichester was one of the aliases used by Gerhartsreiter.

Rockefeller's prints also match those on a stockbroker license application filed under the name Christopher Crowe, The Boston Globe reported Friday, citing unnamed law enforcement sources.

The most definitive word of his true identity came Friday, when a man in Germany confirmed to reporters that Rockefeller was his brother, Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, the son of an artist and homemaker in Upper Bavaria who felt like he was better than his modest upbringing.

"It seems you found my brother," Alexander Gerhartsreiter said upon being handed a photograph of Rockefeller by a Boston Herald reporter who visited his home. "It is really a shock."

He said his older brother was born Feb. 21, 1961, in Siegsdorf, Germany, and was raised until 1978 in the same house where his family still lives today. Gerhartsreiter said his brother moved to Connecticut as a student and never returned, initially keeping in contact but out of touch since he called his parents in 1985 -- the year the couple in California and their tenant Chichester disappeared.

Gerhartsreiter said his brother had told his family he had taken the name Christopher Chichester because his given name was too difficult for Americans.

"I think Germany was too small for him," Gerhartsreiter told a Boston Globe reporter who also visited him at his home Friday. "He wanted to live in the big country and maybe get famous. Now that I see all this, he's really famous."

By later in the day, the home had been locked down without any evidence of anyone inside, and neighbors refused to talk. The telephone listed at the residence rang unanswered.

The FBI has refused to confirm any details of its investigation, other than to say agents believe they are getting close to revealing Rockefeller's true identity.

His attorney, Stephen Hrones, has said his client won't talk to investigators and does not remember his past before 1993, when he married Sandra Boss, a senior partner in the London office of the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

She has not responded to requests for comment left with her employer.

At least two families in Connecticut said Rockefeller is certainly the same young man who came to live with them when he was a teenager.

Steve Savio, 39, of Berlin, Conn., said his family met him after answering an advertisement in a local newspaper from a visiting German teen looking for a place to live.

"I recall him thinking he's better than the rest of us," Savio said. "I recall him telling stories about having servants growing up and like that."

Savio said he last saw the man he knew as Christian Reiter in 1981, but said he kept in contact with his mother, telling her he was using the name Christopher Crowe to open a production company. Savio said the FBI interviewed his mother in 1988 after a man identifying himself as Christopher Crowe tried to sell a pickup truck in Connecticut belonging to the missing Californians, Jonathan and Linda Sohus. He apparently fled before authorities could track him down.

Crowe is also the name on the stockbroker license application with fingerprints linked to Rockefeller, according to the Globe. A former colleague at Nikko Securities International, Richard Barnett, told the newspaper, "The man knew very little about corporate bonds."

Records reviewed by The Associated Press show that after Gerhartsreiter left Connecticut, he went to Wisconsin, where he married 22-year-old Amy Jersild on Feb. 20, 1981, in a civil ceremony at the Dane County courthouse in Madison. He was 19 at the time -- and the marriage enabled him to get a green card.

He left the next day, according to divorce records Jersild filed 11 years later. On them, she listed his address as "unknown."

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