Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

John and Linda Sohus

Real Names: Jonathan Robert and Linda Sohus
Nicknames: John, Johnny (Jonathan), Cody (Linda)
Location: San Marino, California
Date: February 8, 1985


Occupation: Computer Programmer (John), Artist (Linda)
Date of Birth: December 20, 1956 (John), September 17, 1956 (Linda)
Height: 5'6 (John), 6'0 (Linda)
Weight: 120 lbs. (John), 200 lbs. (Linda)
Marital Status: Married (to each other)
Characteristics: Caucasian male. Brown hair, brown eyes (John). Caucasian female with red hair and blue eyes. She has a stocky, muscular build and may dye her hair blonde.  (Linda).


Details: On May 5, 1994, workers were digging for a pool in the backyard of a San Marino, California home when they made a grim discovery: the dismembered skeletal remains of a man, placed in three plastic bags and a fiber glass box. Investigators soon learned that in 1985, the home's previous owner Ruth "Didi" Sohus had reported her son John and daughter-in-law Linda missing. Investigators were certain that the remains belonged to John. However, a lack of dental records and DNA from biological family members (as John was adopted) prevented a positive identification.
At the time of their disappearances, John and Linda had been married for two years but were still living in the San Marino home with Didi. They told friends that they felt trapped living with her and looked forward to moving into a place of their own. He worked part-time computer programming jobs while she worked and was beginning to find success as an artist. According to Linda's friend Sue Coffman, she was happy in her life as John was always supportive of her.
Early in 1985, it appeared that the couple had finally gotten the break that they had hoped for. They announced that they had been asked to interview for important new jobs. Linda told Sue that John had gotten a job with the government. She couldn't release much other information; she only could say that the employers wanted them both and that they had to go to New York. She told Sue that the trip was supposed to last two weeks. The couple left on February 8, 1985. However, their return date came and went; they did not return to San Marino and were never seen alive again.
A few weeks later, Linda's sister Kathy received a call from a kennel. She learned that Linda had left her six cats there and paid for a two-week stay. However, at the end of eight weeks, she never returned to pick up the cats. Kathy was certain that something was wrong. She did not believe that the couple would leave without taking their pets with them. She decided to call John's mother Didi, hoping that she knew their whereabouts. Didi told her that the couple was on a "secret mission" and was not able to contact family members. However, her story changed each time Kathy called her. Kathy believed that this was due to Didi's alcoholism.
In April of 1985, police responded to a missing persons report filed by Linda's family and contacted Didi. She claimed that they were not missing, but were on a "secret mission". She told officers that she received this information from her "source", whom she refused to identify. With no evidence of foul play, police were unable to investigate further.
Finally, three months after the couple supposedly left, Linda's friend Sue received a picture postcard. However, it had not been mailed from New York; instead, it came from Paris, France. On the back, it said "Dear Sue, Kinda missed New York (oops) - but this can be lived with. John & Linda" Sue did not believe that the postcard was from Linda. Another one was sent from France to Linda's family. It did not mention why they were in France or when they would be returning. Linda's sister Kathy believed that if the couple actually were planning to go to Europe, Linda would have excitedly told them about it.
Finally, three months after refusing to help the police, Didi had an inexplicable change of heart. She also filed a missing persons report on John and Linda. She told investigators that she had previously contacted them through her "source". However, her source had also disappeared. She finally revealed that her source was her guest house tenant, Christopher Chichester. He had recently moved without leaving a forwarding address. Didi also reported that John's pickup truck was also missing. However, she could not say when it had disappeared. Without proof that a crime had been committed, the investigation stalled.
Soon after filing the report, Didi sold her house and moved to a trailer park. Three years later in February of 1988, she passed away without learning her son's fate. Nine months later, the case unexpectedly sprang back to life. John's truck turned up 3000 miles away in Greenwich, Connecticut. A man calling himself Christopher Crowe tried to sell it to a local minister's son. He decided not to purchase the truck because it had an outstanding lien on it. Investigators in Greenwich were told to look for a man named Christopher Chichester. They soon discovered that Chichester and Crowe were the same person. It was clear that he was the one person who might have been able to shed light on the Sohus's disappearance. However, Chichester vanished again before he could be questioned.
It wouldn't be until May of 1994, when the skeleton was found, that the investigation began to heat up again. A forensic anthropologist determined that the remains were consistent with physical descriptions of John Sohus. However, a lack of DNA and dental records prevented conclusive identification. Police could only speculate how the body ended up buried in the backyard of the former Sohus residence. Although no clear signs of homicide were found on the bones, the fact that the remains were found in separate bags clearly indicated that foul play was involved.
Investigators used luminol in the guest house on the former Sohus property. Luminol is a chemical which emits a bright glow when it comes into contact with blood, even where the stains were wiped away years before. Luminol was applied to the cement floors in the guest house. The glow was clearly seen on the floor. It appeared that someone had probably been murdered there. However, there was no way to determine whose blood was found there as it had been cleaned up years earlier.
Officially, John and Linda Sohus are still missing. Linda's family does not believe that she would go years without contacting them.
Suspects: Police would like to track down Christopher Chichester and question him about the disappearances of John and Linda. Police have since determined that his real name is Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, a native of Germany. He was born in 1961, is 5'8", and 150 pounds.
Police would also like to locate a mystery woman who may or may not be connected to the case. In June of 1985, the kennel operator reported that the woman showed up to pick Linda's cats. Faced with the alternative of destroying the animals, the operator complied. She never saw the woman again and it is not known if she had anything to do with the couple's disappearances.

Extra Notes: This case first aired on the January 13, 1995 episode. The case was also documented on 48 Hours, Dateline, and Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall.

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter after his arrest

Results: Unresolved. In 2008, Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter was finally located and arrested. At the time, he was using the alias Clark Rockefeller. He was arrested after he abducted his seven-year-old daughter during a custody visit. Over the years, he had conned friends and even his ex-wife into believing he was a part of the wealthy Rockefeller family. Fingerprints confirmed his true identity. Investigators reopened the Sohus case after his parental kidnapping trial concluded. He was sentenced to four-to-five years in state prison on the kidnapping charge, and additional time for an assault charge. He refused to cooperate with police in their investigation of the Sohus case.
In March of 2011, he was charged with John's murder. Investigators finally located John's birth family; DNA testing from his family members confirmed that the remains found in the backyard of the house belonged to him. At the trial, along with the luminol evidence, prosecutors had several witnesses testify against Gerhartsreiter.
Multiple neighbors remembered seeing strange-colored smoke coming from his chimney around the time of the murders. He also had asked friends about places that he could dispose of drums filled with "chemicals" (John's remains were found in a metal drum). Around the time of the murder, he borrowed a chainsaw from a neighbor and tried to sell a bloodstained rug to a friend. Also, around that same time, a friend noticed that the ground near the guest house had been dug up. He claimed that he was having plumbing problems; however, that same area was where John's body would later be found. Finally, two bags found with John's remains came from two universities that Gerharstreiter had attended.
On April 10, 2013, Gerhartsreiter was convicted by a Los Angeles jury of first-degree murder for that of John. He was sentenced to twenty-seven years to life. Sadly, Linda has never been found; however, police believe that she is dead, and was probably killed by Gerhartsreiter around the same time as John.