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John and Linda Sohus

John and Linda Sohus

John and Linda Sohus

Bones found in a backyard may be the former residents missing for years.

In May 1994, while digging a swimming pool in San Marino, California, a workman made a grim discovery. Three plastic bags and a fiberglass box full of dismembered sections of a human skeleton.聽 According to Det. Ronnie Lancaster of the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department, the bones may belong to two former residents:

鈥淲e didn鈥檛 really know who this person was and we were later told by uniformed officers from San Marino that in 1985, the people that lived in that house had reported two people missing.鈥

The two missing persons were John Sohus and his wife, Linda, who had once lived in the house with John鈥檚 mother. Their sudden disappearance 10 years earlier had mystified everyone who knew them.聽 Now it appeared that either John or Linda or both may have been killed and buried in their own backyard.

According to their friends, John and Linda felt trapped living with John鈥檚 mother and looked forward to escaping to a place of their own.聽 John held several part time computer programming jobs. Sue Bermudez Coffman, a friend of Linda鈥檚, said Linda was beginning to find success as an artist:

鈥淟inda was happy with her life. 聽And John approved of everything she had to do and say.聽 And I thought that was great for her because she鈥檇 never had a supportive man in her life.鈥

Human bones were found in the backyard

Human bones were found in the backyard

Now in their late 20鈥檚, it appeared the young couple had finally gotten the break they鈥檇 been hoping for.聽 According to Sue, Linda and John had been asked to interview for important new jobs:

鈥淟inda called me and informed me that John had a job with the government and she couldn鈥檛 release any information to me. All she could tell me was that he鈥檚 got a job with the government and they want us both. And we have to go to New York.鈥

Linda told Sue that the trip was scheduled to last two weeks. But Linda and John never returned, and the mystery only deepened in the later months.聽

Prior to the trip, Linda had boarded her six cats at a local kennel and paid in advance for the two-week stay. 聽But at the end of eight weeks, she still had not claimed her pets. The kennel owner tracked down Linda鈥檚 sister, Kathy, who said it was uncharacteristic of her sister to do such a thing:

鈥淚 immediately thought that something was wrong. If they were not going to return, they would鈥檝e taken their pets with them. I feel very strongly that Linda would not have left her animals behind.鈥

Kathy telephoned John鈥檚 mother, DiDi Sohus, hoping she had an explanation. In several phone calls, DiDi kept insisting to Kathy that John and Linda were on some sort of a secret mission:

鈥淚t did appear to me as though she had been drinking. Sometimes it depended on what time of the day you called as to how wild the story became.鈥

Linda鈥檚 family filed a missing person report and San Marino Police started an investigation. Their first stop: Didi Sohus鈥 home.聽

John and Linda disappeared suddenly

John and Linda disappeared suddenly

DiDi told the police the same story: that John and Linda were on a secret mission and that she got this information from someone she called 鈥渉er source.鈥 Didi refused to identify the person. With no evidence of foul play, the police were powerless to investigate further.

Finally, a full three months after the Sohus鈥 had left for New York, Linda鈥檚 friend, Sue, received a picture postcard from France that she said aroused her suspicious:

聽鈥淚 have no clue as to how going to New York could ever wind up being France.聽 And I read the back of it.聽 I was like, I can鈥檛 wait, she鈥檚 finally going to tell me where she is, what鈥檚 going on. And all it said was 鈥楧ear Sue, Kinda missed New York, oops. But this can be lived with. 聽John and Linda.鈥櫬 Nothing about 鈥業鈥檒l call you later, can鈥檛 talk now.鈥櫬 Nothing. It just didn鈥檛 sound like her.鈥

Then another card was sent from France to Linda鈥檚 family. According to Kathy Jacoby:

鈥淢y mother received a postcard from Linda. It did not say when she would return or how she had come to be in Paris. If they were planning a trip to Europe, she would have been very excited about going and would certainly have expressed that.鈥

Three months after refusing to help the police, Didi Sohus had a change of heart.聽 She, too, filed a missing persons report on John and Linda. Didi finally revealed that her 鈥渟ource鈥 was actually the tenant in her guest house, a man who called himself Christopher Chichester. He鈥檇 lived there for the past two years, but suddenly moved out, leaving no forwarding address.聽

Didi also reported that her son鈥檚 pick-up truck was now missing, though she had no idea when it disappeared. There still was no proof however, that a crime had been committed, and therefore the investigation stalled again.

A luminol test found blood in the guest house

A luminol test found blood in the guest house

Soon after filing her missing persons report, DiDi Sohus sold her house and moved to a trailer park. She died two years later, the fate of her son, still a mystery.

The case sprang to life again nine months after Didi died. The Sohus鈥 truck turned up 3,000 miles away in Greenwich, Connecticut.聽 A man calling himself Christopher Crowe had tried to sell the pick-up to the son of a local minister without the title papers. Rather than buy the truck, the minister鈥檚 son reported it to the police.聽 Sgt. Daniel Allen of Greenwich, Connecticut, Police Department did some digging:

鈥淭he reverend鈥檚 son decided not to purchase the vehicle based on the fact that there was an outstanding lien on the truck.聽 My continued investigation in attempting to locate Mr. Chichester ultimately ended in me discovering that Mr.Chichester and Mr. Crowe were the same individuals.鈥

Be it Crowe or Chichester, the ex-tenant seemed to be the one person who might be able to shed light on the Sohus鈥 disappearance. But he had vanished again.聽 The investigation had stalled, until the dismembered skeleton was discovered five years later.聽 At that time, a forensic anthropologist examined the remains and determined that they fit the physical descriptions of John Sohus. A lack of dental records however, prevented conclusive identification.

Det. Ronnie Lancaster said he was mystified about how the bones might have been buried in the Sohus鈥 backyard:

鈥淣othing about the bones themselves said there was murder. There were no bullet holes.聽 But the fact that the bones were buried in three separate plastic bags and the head in a separate bag, makes one think that there was murder involved.鈥

Detectives hoped to learn more using a chemical called luminol, which emits a distinctive glow when it comes in contact with blood. Luminol was applied to the cement floors in the guesthouse on the former Sohus property. Within moments it would become apparent if there was evidence of murder. There was.聽 The telltale glow was unmistakable. 聽Det. Robert Carr, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff鈥檚 Department administered the test:

鈥淎lthough luminal can detect chemicals in other compounds, this was not just a trace element situation. There was a copious amount of something put on that floor. And in our opinion, that was blood.鈥

But whose blood?聽 Was John Sohus murdered in the guesthouse, then buried in the backyard? If so, what happened to Linda? Officially, both John and Linda Sohus are still missing.

Update:

More than 20 years after John and Linda Sohus disappeared, a man calling himself Clark Rockefeller was identified as a 鈥減erson of interest鈥 in the investigation. Rockefeller was arrested in a parental abduction case. Fingerprints proved that he was, in fact, Christian Gerhartstreiter — alias Christopher Chichester — the man who鈥檇 lived in the guesthouse next to John and Linda Sohus. After further investigation, the Los Angeles County District Attorney recently filed charges against Christian Gerhartstreiter for the murder of John Sohus. 聽Gerhartstreiter has denied any involvement in the case of John and Linda Sohus. 聽He is currently serving a five year prison sentence for abducting his 7 year old daughter and assaulting her bodyguard.