Feds investigate kidnapper tied to other crimes
By Glen Johnson
The Associated Press
BOSTON — The FBI said Friday that it matched fingerprints from a German man's decades-old immigration papers to a kidnapping suspect who calls himself Clark Rockefeller - the first forensic link to a conclusion California authorities had already made.
The FBI said it matched fingerprints from Christian Gerhartsreiter's immigration papers from the early 1980s to those taken from a wine glass Rockefeller touched in late July - around the time he is accused of abducting his daughter - and those taken by Baltimore police after his Aug. 2 arrest.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department this week said it had concluded Rockefeller was Gerhartsreiter after conducting interviews with people who knew him in California in the 1980s.
Authorities have said Gerhartsreiter lived all around the U.S., including California, Wisconsin and Massachusetts, under aliases including Chris Crowe, Chris Chichester, Charles Smith and Chip Smith.
"Gerhartsreiter is at the center of the longest con I've ever seen in my professional career," said Daniel Conley, district attorney in Massachusetts' Suffolk County.
"As prosecutors, we need more than a photo and a fading memory to walk into court and amend a complaint," he said.
By matching recent fingerprints to those on the old papers, Conley said, "the FBI's fingerprint technicians brought science to bear where mere suspicion had prevailed."
California authorities want to question Gerhartsreiter about the 1985 disappearance of Jonathan and Linda Sohus. Gerhartsreiter rented a guesthouse at the home of Jonathan Sohus' mother in San Marino, a wealthy Los Angeles suburb.
DNA testing is under way to determine whether bones dug up on the Sohus' property several years after their disappearance belonged to Jonathan Sohus. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has labeled Gerhartsreiter a "person of interest," but he has refused to talk to their investigators.
No charges have ever been filed in the disappearance.
Rockefeller's lawyer, Stephen Hrones, has said his client recalls the missing California couple and using the Chichester name while living in California in the 1980s. But he said the man has no memory of being Christian Gerhartsreiter and insists he had nothing to do with the disappearance.
Hrones told reporters Friday, "It was the most ridiculous press conference ever. The family's already identified him."
He said that his client wasn't changing his names to defraud anyone and that the memory problems could be medical or related to childhood trauma.
Police have said Rockefeller snatched his daughter from a Boston street during a supervised visit on July 27 after hiring two people to drive them to New York. Authorities believe he meant to start a new life with his daughter.
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Conley, the district attorney in Massachusetts, said Friday that the three state charges against the suspect - felony parental kidnapping, assault and battery, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, the getaway car - will be modified to reflect Gerhartsreiter's name. Gerhartsreiter could face an additional charge for giving officers a false identification, Conley said.
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