Dozens of potential jurors filled out questionnaires today in preparation for the trial of a man who allegedly posed as a member of the Rockefeller family and murdered his landlord, whose remains were found buried in his San Marino backyard.
Christian Gerhartsreiter, 52, is accused of the February 1985 slaying of John Sohus, 27, whose bones were found nearly a decade later. Gerhartsreiter was charged in March 2011, while serving a prison term in Massachusetts for kidnapping his own daughter.
Ninety-three potential witnesses, including 16 experts, are listed in the 26-page questionnaire and the trial is expected to take at least four weeks, according to the court clerk.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George Lomeli asked potential jurors to return Friday, when attorneys for both sides will have had time to review their answers.
A construction worker who testified at Gerhartsreiter's preliminary hearing said he was digging a hole for a swimming pool in a backyard in the 1900 block of Lorain Road on May 5, 1994, when he hit what he initially thought was a bag of garbage.
Jose Perez said his father looked inside the bag, then turned to him and mouthed the words "bones inside." His father put a piece of rebar into the bag and pulled out a skull, Perez testified.
Other remains -- also wrapped in plastic -- were found at the site, according to an anthropologist who testified that she collected the bones.
Dr. Frank Sheridan, chief medical examiner for San Bernardino County, acting as a consultant in the case, said he determined the victim suffered skull fractures from at least three forceful blows to the head and "would have died shortly after receiving these injuries in the absence of medical care."
The criminal complaint alleges that Gerhartsreiter killed Sohus sometime between Feb. 1 and Feb. 28, 1985, using a "blunt object."
In 2008, after calling Gerhartsreiter a "person of interest" in the couple's disappearance, sheriff's detectives returned to the San Marino property to search for other human remains but would not say what, if anything, they found.
Gerhartsreiter is also suspected in the death of Sohus' wife, Linda, though he has not been charged with killing her and there has been no report that her remains have been found.
One of the questions for the jury pool reads, "Do you believe that a person's body must be found or produced before that person can be considered dead?"
At the time he rented a guesthouse from the couple, Gerhartsreiter allegedly used the name Christopher Chichester. He disappeared after the couple went missing.
At other times, he allegedly went by the name Clark Rockefeller, one of five aliases listed in the criminal complaint. Detectives say his fingerprints identify him as Gerhartsreiter, a German who came to Connecticut in the 1970s as a student.
Gerhartsreiter faces up to 26 years to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.