LOS ANGELES — Jurors may never hear testimony from a Rockefeller impostor on trial for killing a California man. But on Thursday they saw the next best thing – a TV interview in which he offered an oblique denial.
The August 2008 interview of Christian Gerhartsreiter on NBC's "Today" show featured the German immigrant claiming in unaccented English that he was born and raised in New York. He gave his name as Clark Rockefeller.
He was asked if he killed Linda and John Sohus, and responded that he was a pacifist and believed in non-violence.
"I can fairly certainly say that I've never hurt anyone physically," he said.
The interview was as bizarre as many of the details that have emerged in his trial.
Gerhartsreiter is charged with murder in the death of John Sohus, whose bones were unearthed at a San Marino home where the defendant once rented a cottage from Sohus' mother.
Witnesses have depicted the defendant as a bon vivant who charmed his way into high society and into the exclusive Southern California neighborhood where the Sohus couple lived. He made up elaborate stories about his lineage claiming to be descended from British royalty or from the fabled Rockefeller millionaires.
Asked by interviewer Natalie Morales whether he was sure his name was Clark Rockefeller, he hesitated.
"Well, from what I've heard lately that it may not be, but as far as I know it's my name," he said.
He said he had no memory of growing up in Germany even when presented with childhood pictures provided by his family.
But he said he remembered going to Mount Rushmore as a child and picking strawberries in Oregon.
"I remember going to the zoo in Central Park," he said, adding he had no memory of his family.
He said he remembered using the name Christopher Crowe but not Gerhartsreiter and knew that he had worked on Wall Street.
"I was not particularly good at what I was doing," he said.
A prosecutor has spent nearly two weeks portraying Gerhartsreiter as a fabulist whose outrageous stories hid a man with a murderous secret.
Defense attorneys have claimed that Linda Sohus, who was never found, killed her husband and the defendant had nothing to do with it.
They have declined to comment on whether he will testify in his own defense.
The trial recessed Thursday until Tuesday.