Police are investigating whether Clark Rockefeller (left), who was arraigned today for parental kidnapping, has ties to the 1985 disappearance of a California couple. Christopher Chichester (right), shown in an archive photo from a California newspaper, was a tenant of the couple but disappeared before police could question him. (Essdras Suarez/Globe Staff — Pasadena Star-News Archive Photo)
By Eric Moskowitz, Maria Cramer, and Milton Valencia, Globe Staff
Homicide detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department headed to Boston today to interview the man known as Clark Rockefeller about a decades-old missing persons case out of San Marino, Calif., a spokesman for the sheriff’s department said this afternoon.
“He’s a suspect worth interviewing,” said Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the department. “We’re on our way to do that. Whether we get any information from him or not, we don’t know.”
Whitmore said investigators were probing whether Rockefeller was linked to the 1985 disappearances of John and Linda Sohus in San Marino, a tony enclave of about 13,000 in Los Angeles County.
“This person back in your jail is now a person of interest in our investigation of that case,” he said.
Lili Hadsell, police chief in Baldwin Park, Ca., who used to work as a patrol officer in San Marino in the 1980s, said she received a call last night from a San Marino detective asking her about the disappearances.
She said that in 1985, one of John Sohus’s relatives, either his grandmother or adoptive mother, called her to report that Sohus and his “new wife” had never come home.
San Marino police tried to find the couple but never reached them. They also tried to interview a tenant who lived in their house, Christopher Chichester, who was described as being in his 20s.
He disappeared before they could interview him, Hadsell said. She said she recalled little about him, except that he went by at least one other alias.
“He was just very elusive,” she said. “We were never able to pin anything down on him, never were really able to figure out where he came from, what he had done. [He was] one of these people that kind of appeared and then disappeared and no one seemed to know anything about him.”
The Globe reported today that authorities are investigating the possibility that Rockefeller is concealing a violent past, after his fingerprints provided an unusual, but still unconfirmed, link to a killing in California.
Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said today that police believed Rockefeller had been in the Los Angeles area at some point in the 1980s.
In May 1994, swimming pool excavators working in a back yard on Lorain Road in the exclusive city of San Marino found the bones of a single adult human in three plastic bags. The Los Angeles Times reported at the time that detectives said the victim might be a previous resident of the house who had been missing since 1985.
The Sohuses, both in their late 20s, were both reported missing in 1985. The Times reported that police had asked people about a young man who lived in an apartment at the back of the home when the couple had disappeared.
The man was thought to have been a student at Pasadena City College, had used several aliases, and had been in trouble with the law, police told people they were questioning, the newspaper reported.
Rockefeller’s fingerprints, taken after his capture in Baltimore Saturday, were linked to an out-of-state license application under a different name, according to two law enforcement officials. That name, in turn, was on a list of people wanted in a homicide case in California, the officials said.
Both officials provided information to the Globe on condition they not be named, because the investigation is ongoing.
Rockefeller has been no help as investigators try to determine his true identity, officials said. A prosecutor called him a “mystery man” and a “cipher” today at his Boston arraignment, acknowledging that investigators still don’t know who he really is. A judge ordered Rockefeller held without bail on charges of parental kidnapping, assault and battery, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
The questions about Rockefeller’s past have surfaced because on July 27 he allegedly kidnapped his 7-year-old daughter from his ex-wife and then fled with her to Baltimore, where he was arrested Saturday. The girl was found safe.