LOS ANGELES: A German man managed to pass himself off as a member of the Rockefeller family, "hiding in plain sight" for more than a decade after an alleged murder, US prosecutors say.
Christian Gerhartsreiter, who was arrested 23 years after allegedly killing his former landlady's son John Sohus in 1985, took extensive notes as the murder trial began in a Los Angeles courtroom.
Born in Bergen, Germany, in 1961, he arrived in America in 1978 and changed his name to Christopher Chichester, variously pretending to be a Hollywood producer and a baronet.
After the alleged murder he changed his name to Christopher Crowe, moved to the east coast and became a well-paid bond trader, then changed his name again to Clark Rockefeller, a member of the storied US family, and got married.
"For 12 years the evidence will tell you he was hiding in plain sight," prosecutor Habib Balian told jurors on Monday in an opening statement in the trial, which is expected to last three to four weeks.
Sohus and his wife Linda were last seen in 1985, living in the home of his mother in San Marino, north-east of Los Angeles – where Mr Gerhartsreiter was a tenant in a backyard guest house, using the Chichester alias.
Sohus's remains were found nine years later in 1994 – his wife's body has never been discovered. The victim's body parts were wrapped in plastic bags and buried a metre deep, unearthed when the home's new owners were digging a swimming pool in the backyard.
By this time Mr Gerhartsreiter was living in New York as Christopher Crowe, making over $US100,000 a year as a trader - but he changed his name to Rockefeller when he got wind that police were looking for him.
After leaving his live-in Japanese girlfriend, he went to ground again before resurfacing as Rockefeller, under which alias he met and married Sandra Boss, telling her he was born in New York and educated at Yale.
For more than a decade he lived without a driver's licence or bank account, and never signed a lease or took a plane journey for fear of being identified, but he was eventually tracked down in 2008.
Mr Gerhartsreiter has been in custody since, pending the trial.