When a ‘Rockefeller’ almost got away with murder

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Investigative journalist Aphrodite Jones takes on the case of a creepy ‘Rockefeller’ who killed a woman and kidnapped a child

For some reason, we all have an obsession with wealth. We all know money isn’t everything, and yet we often find ourselves wondering things like, “who’s the richest person in the room,” or “who’s the richest actor in Hollywood?” Does it really matter to us? Does it change our lives in any way? Of course not – it’s just an obsessive curiosity that’s fed by a media machine that tends to focus on the lives of the rich and famous.

How about a person who was so obsessed with wealth, that he was willing to go to any length to portray himself as being from one the the richest families in America? This is what a man called Clark Rockefeller was able to do – and he passed his scheme off for many years, linking himself to American aristocracy, all the while being wanted for questioning in a double missing persons’ case that had been reported in California in 1985.

Why couldn’t police catch this imposter? How did Rockefeller live in the lap of luxury for over 25 years while the law continued to search for him? It’s hard to believe this kind of thing could happen today, with all the smartphones and cameras watching us like Big Brother. But back in the 1980s, “Rockefeller” was able to use a string of names and false identities to throw police off.

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter,center, originally from Germany and who calls himself Clark Rockefeller, appears in municipal court for a pre-trial hearing in Boston Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008, flanked by his lawyer Stephen Hrones, left, and an unidentified court officer, right. Gerhartsreiter has been charged with kidnapping his 7-year-old daughter in late July. (AP Photo/Mark Garfinkel, Pool)

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter,center, originally from Germany and who calls himself Clark Rockefeller, appears in municipal court for a pre-trial hearing in Boston Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008, flanked by his lawyer Stephen Hrones, left, and an unidentified court officer, right. Gerhartsreiter has been charged with kidnapping his 7-year-old daughter in late July. (AP Photo/Mark Garfinkel, Pool)

In times when we all worry about our identities being stolen by someone on the internet, when we worry about fraud charges on our bank cards and fake emails with viruses, it should come as no surprise that once upon a time – before things went cyber – it was even easier to be to steal someone’s identity, entirely.

The FBI chase to find “Rockefeller” became one of the longest chases in the history of the FBI. Turns out this con man was smart, he was lucky, and was always one step ahead of them. It was such a different world back then. We sometimes forget that there was no FaceBook, no Instagram, no Snapchat, nothing instantly connecting people at the time.

This mysterious man, who used the names Chrisopher Crowe, Chis Chichester, Chris Gerhard, Clark Rockefeller and other identities, had reached the pinnacle of New York society in the 1990’s, marrying a Harvard MBA graduate and becoming a New York stockbroker himself.

A house is photographed at 1920 Lorain Road in San Marino, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008. The previous owners of the property, Jonathan and Linda Sohus, vanished without a trace in 1985. A man known as Clark Rockefeller accused of kidnapping his 7-year-old daughter during a visit in Boston, is a “person of interest” in the case of Jonathan and Linda Sohus. After his arrest in Baltimore, police realized Rockefeller’s fingerprints matched those on an old license application submitted by Christopher Chichester _ a man who lived in a guesthouse on the Sohus’ property and was a target of the initial investigation. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

A house is photographed at 1920 Lorain Road in San Marino, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008. The previous owners of the property, Jonathan and Linda Sohus, vanished without a trace in 1985. A man known as Clark Rockefeller accused of kidnapping his 7-year-old daughter during a visit in Boston, is a “person of interest” in the case of Jonathan and Linda Sohus. After his arrest in Baltimore, police realized Rockefeller’s fingerprints matched those on an old license application submitted by Christopher Chichester _ a man who lived in a guesthouse on the Sohus’ property and was a target of the initial investigation. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

But Rockefeller was hiding a secret, and that monstrous secret would be unearthed when the remains of a 27-year-old man were discovered in the backyard of a wealthy enclave in California, a place called San Marino, just outside of Los Angeles. The remains of John Sohus were the missing link needed to bring a murder charge against the man who called himself “Rockefeller.“ But incredibly, it would take another criminal event, a kidnapping that occurred years after the discovery of the body, before law enforcement could piece the puzzle together.

I went to San Marino to dig deeper into this story. What was “Rockefeller’s” motive?  The prosecutors at his murder trial never offered one. More importantly, I knew John’s remains were found, but what ever became of Linda Sohus?

Would justice ever be served for Linda?

A Man Called  Rockefeller is the subject my podcast SEX LOVE & MURDER, dropping this Saturday August 26th at 11PM. Tune in and give us your feedback on Twitter @slmpodcast, or on Facebook at Sex Love & Murder. I’d love to hear your comments on this extraordinary case.

How a murderer landed on reality TV: Aphrodite Jones talks ‘Megan Wants a Millionaire’ killer, unmasks what happens behind the scenes

Reality shows date back to the 1940s, but it wasn’t until the 1990s and early 2000s that reality TV exploded into global proportions. The shows became so popular and lucrative that some people became obsessed with becoming rich and famous through reality television, while producers were happy to help, even if meant overlooking criminal backgrounds, as long as ratings poured in.

CrimeOnline spoke with author and investigative true crime journalist, Aphrodite Jones, who opened up about a reality show star who shocked the nation and changed reality TV forever after he murdered his own wife, peeled off her nails, pulled out her teeth, stuffed her in a suitcase and tossed her into a California dumpster.

The story began in 2009 when reality show star, Megan Hauserman, landed her own reality series, Megan Wants a Millionaire. The premise of the show was to find Hauserman, a prospective “trophy wife,” a man worth millions who would love her and marry her. It seems like many women’s dreams, but it quickly estimated into everyone’s nightmare.

“According to a source, a number of these guys were not millionaires. In fact, one was a plumber and one was a bartender,” Jones said. “Not that there is anything wrong with that, but they are pretending to be millionaires, and the show was putting them on as millionaires.”

Ryan Jenkins was one of the “pretenders.” Although he came from a wealthy family, he himself was not a millionaire, yet he somehow made it through VH1’s reported lenient requirements. The show introduced Jenkins as a Canadian investment banker, worth $2.5 million, none of which were true.

To make matters worse, although Jenkins passed a multiple-choice psychological quiz, he was never fully vetted by a professional psychiatrist or any kind of mental health professional before he was allowed a spot as a contestant on the show. Further, his 2007 conviction of domestic violence was somehow overlooked by the producers, and he was presented onto the show as a rich, successful businessman with a clean criminal background.

Jenkins ended up getting third place in the show, and was sent on his way to star in, and win first place in another show, I Love Money (Season 3). While filming the latter series, he ended up marrying a Las Vegas model, Jasmine Fiore, a “part of the party elite arm candy,” according to Jones.

While Jenkins was looking for a way to become a legal resident of the U.S., Fiore was looking for success and money. According to Jones, Jenkins had an agreement with Fiore where he would pay her a large sum of money each month if she married him. Fiore apparently thought that meant the marriage was a business deal and not a romantic deal, and she continued to see other men, which enraged Jenkins.

The emotional and physical abuse began within days of the couple’s quickie wedding. Jenkins reportedly slapped Fiore in front of a group of people at a poolside and belittled her constantly. In July, she broke off the relationship, but within a week, Jenkins sent a letter to Fiore, begging for one more chance. She obliged, which ended up being a deadly mistake.

“If you can come back to me and stop all the craziness, we can have a wonderful life … your forgiveness, trust and loyalty is all I need right now and when your love for me grows and our lives are heading in the right direction, I’ll truly feel complete. I will never leave you. I only want you.”

On August 13, 2009,  the couple checked into the L’Auberge Del Mar Hotel in San Diego, and within two days, Fiore was dead. Jenkins murdered Fiore so brutally that it was unfathomable that he was the same man that just months earlier, charmed his way into 3rd place on a reality show.

Later, he fled to Canada and hanged himself in a hotel bathroom, without explaining himself, leaving Fiore’s family with no answers and no sense of closure.

As devastating as the incidence was, even scarier are the lives that were put at risk at the hands of producers who failed to properly vet a contestant before allowing him on a national television show. How often does this go on? How well do we really know the “characters” that we see portrayed on our favorite reality shows? And should these shows be held accountable if someone should become injured by a contestant who was never thoroughly checked?

(Article written by Leigh Egan for Crime Online on August 18, 2017)