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Boston man investigated in California cold case

Clark Rockefeller Held Without Bail On Kidnapping Charges
Clark Rockefeller, in a photo released by the Boston Police on Tuesday, was arrested for allegedly kidnapping his seven-year-old daughter Reigh Storrow Boss. Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

He calls himself Clark Rockefeller, and police say for years he's been dining out on the illustrious name, pretending to be an heir to the oil tycoon.

But investigators want to know whether the man dubbed "Crockefeller" and "Rockephony" by the tabloids is more than an imposter. They want to know if he's linked to an unsolved killing.

The bespectacled 48-year-old has been jailed since being accused of abducting his daughter from Boston's high-society Back Bay neighborhood. Authorities are now trying to determine whether he's connected to a bag of human bones and a married couple who vanished nearly a quarter century ago in this wealthy Los Angeles suburb.

On Wednesday, two homicide detectives from Los Angeles were in Boston to question Rockefeller about Jonathan and Linda Sohus, who vanished without a trace in 1985.

After his arrest last weekend in Baltimore in the alleged kidnapping, it soon became clear the suspect was not a real Rockefeller. Descendants of the oil tycoon said he was not related. And the man's true identity remains a mystery because he claims he can't remember anything about his past.

But police soon 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.

The development was the latest in an intriguing case that has repeatedly frustrated investigators since Jonathan Sohus' mother filed a missing persons report 23 years ago.

Police explored various possibilities, including that Chichester had been in love with Linda Sohus and murdered her husband in a fit of jealousy.

But then Chichester disappeared, too, and Sohus' mother died in 1988 without any answers.

Lili Hadsell, a former San Marino police sergeant who took the initial missing persons report, said the mother later reported receiving postcards from Linda Sohus from Paris. She died believing her son and daughter-in-law had moved to Europe and forgotten about her.

Then in 1994, the new owners of the Sohus property on Lorain Road were digging a swimming pool when a backhoe uncovered human remains in three plastic bags. Investigators also found horse and chicken bones.

The badly damaged remains were believed to be those of Jonathan Sohus — but were never positively identified, Hadsell said. No sign of Linda Sohus was ever found.

The case eventually faded from the public eye, but investigators have searched for Chichester for years.

In 1994, homicide detectives circulated a news release that described Chichester as a con man who "surfaces in affluent neighborhoods and mingles in social circles before making friends with wealthy, influential people."

They never found him and never interviewed him, Hadsell said.

When Hadsell learned of the possible connection to the Rockefeller case, she was "absolutely shocked and very, very pleased. It was really thrilling to see that maybe we've got him and maybe we're going to come to some kind of resolution for John and Linda."

'No signs of foul play'
Authorities came close to Chichester in the late 1980s when he was pulled over in Greenwich, Conn., driving Sohus' truck. But by the time the Department of Motor Vehicles had confirmed it was Sohus' truck, Chichester and the vehicle had vanished.

"We were very diligent in trying to track down as many leads as we could, but they were adults, and there were no signs of foul play," Hadsell said of the initial investigation. "Adults can go ahead and disappear."

When the Los Angeles detectives came to the Boston jail where Rockefeller is being held without bail, Rockefeller refused to meet with them.

"He's not accepting any communications. He's not granting any interviews," said Peter Van Delft, a spokesman for the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department.

Rockefeller's attorney, Stephen Hrones, said he advised his client not to speak to the Los Angeles investigators. He said Rockefeller "denies absolutely" any connection between him and the California case.

The possible link to Boston, where Rockefeller allegedly orchestrated a complex kidnapping scheme to take his daughter during a supervised custody visit, was the talk of San Marino, a placid town of gated cul-de-sacs, well-manicured lawns and tree-lined boulevards.

'A prototype con man'
Neighbors on Wednesday remembered Chichester as a smooth talker who was well-dressed and seemed well-educated. He did all the right things to ingratiate himself with his upscale neighbors, including volunteering at the local library, said Ray Cornwall, a neighbor who has lived in the community since the 1970s.

Chichester arrived with a British accent, but some were suspicious of him because of his fantastical claims to fame and fortune, Cornwall said. He told people he was related to a famous British sailor who had sailed the globe and was also related to the Mountbatten family, a wealthy and influential British line.

"He's a prototype con man. He's really good at it," said Cornwall, whose daughter dated Chichester briefly in the mid-1980s. "It's going to be hard to prove anything, because he's not left any permanent trail. It's all smoke and mirrors."