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Rockefeller imposter ordered to stand trial for murder

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A German man who once posed as a member of the wealthy Rockefeller family was ordered on Tuesday to stand trial for murder in the 1985 death of his landlord and neighbor.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jared Moses' decision to hold Christian Gerhartsreiter, 50, for trial followed five days of testimony during a preliminary hearing.

The purpose of the hearing, which was held in the Los Angeles suburb of Alhambra, was to determine if there was enough evidence to merit a trial.

Los Angeles prosecutors in March 2011 charged Gerhartsreiter with murdering John Sohus in 1985 by using a blunt object. He pleaded not guilty, and his attorney has said that he continues to maintain his innocence.

Gerhartsreiter, who at the time was using the name Christopher Chichester, was renting a guest house from Sohus and the man's wife, Linda, in the Los Angeles suburb of San Marino, prosecutors said.

Officials with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which investigated the case, have said they believe Gerhartsreiter was involved in Linda Sohus' death but her body was never discovered. He has not been charged, however, with killing her.

Authorities determined that bones discovered in the back yard of the Sohus residence in 1994 belonged to John Sohus, but they only recently made a conclusive identification of the remains with the help of new technology not available when the bones were unearthed, the Sheriff's Department has said.

For at least 16 years, Gerhartsreiter passed himself off as a man named Clark Rockefeller and pretended to be a member of the Rockefeller oil dynasty, a claim the family denies.

Sandra Boss, Gerhartsreiter's wife of 12 years, accused him in her 2007 divorce case of lying about being a Rockefeller.

The following year, he kidnapped the couple's young daughter in Boston, leading to a manhunt that ended with his arrest in Baltimore and the girl's rescue.

His four-year prison sentence in Massachusetts for kidnapping and assault in that case is due to end in the middle of this year. He was sent to Southern California last year to face the murder charge and is receiving credit for time served in jail in Los Angeles County while his case proceeds through the local court system.

Detectives said his fingerprints identified him as Gerhartsreiter, a German who came to Connecticut in the 1970s as a student.

Gerhartsreiter faces a maximum sentence of 26 years to life in prison if convicted of murder.

(Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis. Edited by Peter Bohan)

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