Trial witness tells of love affair with impostor
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mihoko Manabe told jurors Wednesday at her former fiance’s murder trial that she never knew the true identity of the German immigrant who called himself by multiple names including Clark Rockefeller until he was charged with murder.
Manabe on Wednesday told a story elicited by a prosecutor to show that by the time she met the man whose true name was Christian Gerhartsreiter he had a terrible secret to hide.
Manabe said she met her boyfriend in 1987 when they worked at a New York brokerage firm. She was a translator; he was head of the bonds desk. She knew him as Christopher Crowe until he began using the Rockefeller pseudonym.
She didn’t know until recently that he was Gerhartsreiter and had been charged with the murder of a California man who vanished in 1985.
“He was an unusual person,” she said, but after police began calling to interview him, she said he became downright odd.
“After the call, he was markedly different,” she said.
Gerhartsreiter became paranoid and said they had to go into hiding. She described a cloak-and-dagger existence in which he had her dye his hair blonde, grew a beard, exchanged his glasses for contact lenses, and made plans to leave the country.
He proposed marriage and she accepted, she said, but they neither left the country nor got married. “The plans all fell by the wayside,” she said.
Her fiance quit his job at another major brokerage house and never worked again. She said she supported him while he stayed home and took care of bills and household chores. She got him a credit card in the name Clark Rockefeller.
“Why did you stick around that long and go along with it?” asked Deputy District Attorney Habib Balian.
“He had asked me to marry him and I was loyal,” she said.
“Did you love him?” asked Balian.
“Yes, I did,” said the witness as her former lover sat at a courtroom table taking notes and not looking at her.
“Did you believe he loved you?” asked the prosecutor.
“Yes,” she said quietly.
But their relationship deteriorated and in 1994 she left to marry another man.
Manabe appeared nervous and said she would have preferred not to testify.
“It’s not a part of my life I like to talk about or remember,” she said.
Gerhartsreiter is charged with the murder of John Sohus, the son of a woman who rented her San Marino, California guest house to the defendant.
Sohus and his wife, Linda, disappeared in 1985, and bones were dug up in the yard of the home in 1994. No sign of Linda Sohus was ever found.
Asked why she stayed, she said she loved him.
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