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‘Rockefeller’ kidnapping case goes to jury

A jury in Boston began deliberating Monday in the child-kidnapping case of a man who calls himself Clark Rockefeller.
Rockefeller Mystery
Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, who calls himself Clark Rockefeller, sits at the defense table behind a photograph of himself and his daughter during closing arguments in his kidnapping trial in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston on Monday.Brian Snyder / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The man who calls himself Clark Rockefeller descended into "pure madness" when he kidnapped his 7-year-old daughter during a supervised visit, defense lawyers told the jury in his kidnapping case Monday.

But a prosecutor called his insanity claim "preposterous" and said he was a master manipulator who planned the kidnapping for months and knew what he was doing was wrong.

The jury of eight women and four men deliberated for about 3 1/2 hours before going home for the day without reaching a verdict on charges of kidnapping, assault and providing a false name to police.

Rockefeller, whose real name is Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, is accused of snatching his daughter, Reigh, during a supervised visit in Boston last July after losing custody of the girl to his ex-wife. Father and daughter were found in Baltimore six days later. The girl was unharmed.

His defense lawyers told the jury he is mentally ill and therefore not responsible for his actions.

But prosecutors said he was a master manipulator who planned the kidnapping for months and knew what he was doing was wrong.

'Lifetime of lies'
In his closing argument Monday, Assistant District Attorney David Deakin described what he called a "lifetime of lies" by Gerhartsreiter, starting when he moved to the United States from his native Germany at the age of 17.

Deakin reviewed for the jury the five different aliases Gerhartsreiter used between the early 1980s and 1993, when he began pretending to be a member of the famous Rockefeller clan. Deakin said Gerhartsreiter continued to use the Rockefeller name when he met Sandra Boss, then a student at Harvard Business School, and throughout their 12-year marriage.

Boss testified during the trial that she believed her husband's stories about his past for much of their marriage and it was only when she hired a private investigator during their 2007 divorce that she realized he "was not the person he'd said he was."

Deakin told jurors that Gerhartsreiter, 48, had become accustomed to a lavish lifestyle, supported by Boss, who is a management consulting firm executive in London.

She testified that she made up to $2 million per year, while Gerhartsreiter did not hold a job, despite elaborate stories he told others about being a cardiovascular surgeon, a physicist and a member of the Trilateral Commission, a private organization established in the 1970s to foster cooperation among the United States, Europe and Japan.

Deakin acknowledged that Gerhartsreiter is "troubled" and has a personality disorder, but said there is no doubt he knew it was wrong to kidnap his daughter.

"This is not a case about madness. It's a case about manipulation," Deakin said.

He cited the testimony of a Baltimore real estate agent who said Gerhartsreiter began contacting her months before the kidnapping and, using another alias, said he wanted to buy a house for him and his daughter.

He also cited testimony from a livery driver and a friend who Gerhartsreiter allegedly hired to be unwitting getaway drivers the day of the kidnapping.

"He didn't make a move to abduct his daughter until all the getaway cars were in place," said Deakin. "He didn't move to break the law until he believed he could get away with it."

'Psychotic break'
But Gerhartsreiter's defense attorney, Jeffrey Denner, painted his client as a troubled man who grew increasingly ill as his marriage failed and who finally had "a truly psychotic break" after he lost custody of his daughter.

Denner cited the multiple aliases and fantastic stories he told about himself to people he encountered as he moved around the United States over the last three decades. He said his "boasts" intensified after he married Boss, as she accepted him as a Rockefeller.

"She reinforces his underlying narcissism and his underlying mental illness," Denner said.

Denner said that when his wife filed for divorce and he later lost of his daughter, it was "the perfect storm that sent him over the edge." At that point, Denner said, he became delusional, believing that his daughter was communicating with him telepathically, telling him that she needed to be saved.

"He believes that she is in great danger and he has to rescue her," Denner said.

Denner also blasted the credentials of a prosecution witness, Dr. James Chu.

Chu, a psychiatrist from McLean Hospital, rebutted the defense claim that Gerhartsreiter was legally insane when he kidnapped his daughter. Denner noted that Chu had almost no experience as a forensic psychiatrist and said he was "absolutely unqualified" to evaluate Gerhartsreiter.

Two mental health experts hired by the defense testified that Gerhartsreiter has a delusional disorder and narcissistic personality disorder that made him not criminally responsible for his conduct.

"Taking a look at Mr. Rockefeller, you know that something is wrong with him," Denner said.

"This is not a man playing with a whole deck."

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