‘Rockefeller’ ex-wife says she made poor choices
BOSTON — At work, Sandra Boss was a dynamic, Harvard-educated executive who made $2 million a year and advised companies on complex business strategies.
But at home, she was a “stupid” wife who believed her husband’s fantastic lies about his past and allowed him to control almost every aspect of her life, she testified Tuesday at her ex-husband’s kidnapping trial.
“I’m not saying that I made a very good choice of husband,” she said of the man she knew as Clark Rockefeller. “It’s pretty obvious that I had a blind spot.
“All I’m saying is that it’s possible that one can be brilliant and amazing in one area of one’s life and pretty stupid in another,” she said.
Prosecutors say Rockefeller, whose real name is Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, has used multiple aliases since moving to the United States from Germany in 1978. He is accused of kidnapping their 7-year-old daughter, Reigh, during a supervised visit in Boston last July after he lost custody of the girl in their December 2007 divorce.
His lawyers say he is mentally ill with a delusional order and is therefore not criminally responsible for his actions.
Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday after calling their final witnesses, including a Wisconsin woman who said she agreed to marry Gerhartsreiter in 1981 so he could get a green card and stay in the United States. The defense is scheduled to begin its case Wednesday.
During more than two hours of cross-examination Tuesday, Boss, 42, revealed stunning details about their 12-year marriage.
Gerhartsreiter’s lawyer, Jeffrey Denner, repeatedly pressed her on how a sophisticated and intelligent woman could believe her husband’s stories and why she didn’t leave him earlier. Denner ticked off numerous lies that Gerhartsreiter told her during their 15-year relationship, including:
— After suffering a childhood fall that left him mute for about seven years, he regained his speech after seeing a dog and speaking the word, “woofness.”
— He was left penniless after paying $50 million to settle the debts of his late father, in part to prevent creditors from coming after Boss.
— He was part of the Trilateral Commission, a nongovernmental discussion group established in the 1970s to foster cooperation between North America, Western Europe and Pacific Asia.
Boss said she knew her husband lied “to make people think that he was more important than he was,” but she did not realize the extent of his deception until she hired a private investigator during their divorce.
She said her husband, whom she repeatedly referred to as “the defendant,” managed their finances, even though she was the only one earning money.
“The defendant controlled all of the money. The defendant spent all of the money. There were no savings,” she said.
In testimony Monday, Boss said the man she knew as Clark Rockefeller wooed her with his intelligence and charm, but became angry and controlling soon after they got married in 1995.
During cross-examination, Denner pressed her to explain why she didn’t try to verify any of the claims he made about his past. She acknowledged that she never saw him with any form of identification and the only corroboration she had for his claim that he was related to the famous Rockefeller clan was a book he said had been signed by David Rockefeller.
“It had never in my entire life occurred to me that I could be living with someone who was lying about such basic stuff,” she said.
Denner also pressed her on why she didn’t leave her husband earlier, suggesting that, with an income of about $40,000 a week, she had the financial wherewithal to divorce him.
Boss said they had marital difficulties from the beginning, but she was afraid to leave because he became angry and threatening when she brought up divorce.
Once, when she told him she was considering divorce, he “started screaming at me in front of Reigh and told me that if I did, he would manage to get full custody of her,” Boss said.
She said that at her husband’s insistence, the family left New York City and moved to several different places, including Cornish, N.H., requiring her to commute to her job in New York. While living in New Hampshire in 2003 and 2004, there were times, she said, when “the defendant declined to provide me with enough to eat.” She said she woke up hungry most nights. She was not asked to elaborate.
Denner repeatedly asked Boss if she thought he was delusional. Boss said her former husband told a series of lies, but “was completely clear on what he was doing.”
“The defendant was lying to me,” she said.
Also testifying Tuesday was Gerhartsreiter’s first wife, Amy Jersild-Duhnke. The Milwaukee woman said she married Gerhartsreiter in 1981 at the request of her sister, who was dating him.
Jersild-Duhnke said she had never met Gerhartsreiter when he and her sister asked if she would marry him.
She said they got married in Madison, Wis., and a couple of weeks later, she went to a federal courthouse with him to sign some immigration documents. She said she never saw or heard from him again.
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