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.  According to Det. Ronnie Lancaster of the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department, the bones may belong to two former residents:

“We didn’t 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.”

The two missing persons were John Sohus and his wife, Linda, who had once lived in the house with John’s mother. Their sudden disappearance 10 years earlier had mystified everyone who knew them.  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’s mother and looked forward to escaping to a place of their own.  John held several part time computer programming jobs. Sue Bermudez Coffman, a friend of Linda’s, said Linda was beginning to find success as an artist:

“Linda was happy with her life.  And John approved of everything she had to do and say.  And I thought that was great for her because she’d never had a supportive man in her life.”

Human bones were found in the backyard

Human bones were found in the backyard

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

“Linda called me and informed me that John had a job with the government and she couldn’t release any information to me. All she could tell me was that he’s got a job with the government and they want us both. And we have to go to New York.”

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. 

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

“I immediately thought that something was wrong. If they were not going to return, they would’ve taken their pets with them. I feel very strongly that Linda would not have left her animals behind.”

Kathy telephoned John’s 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:

“It 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.”

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

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 “her source.” 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’ had left for New York, Linda’s friend, Sue, received a picture postcard from France that she said aroused her suspicious:

 “I have no clue as to how going to New York could ever wind up being France.  And I read the back of it.  I was like, I can’t wait, she’s finally going to tell me where she is, what’s going on. And all it said was ‘Dear Sue, Kinda missed New York, oops. But this can be lived with.  John and Linda.’  Nothing about ‘I’ll call you later, can’t talk now.’  Nothing. It just didn’t sound like her.”

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

“My 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.”

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

Didi also reported that her son’s 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’ truck turned up 3,000 miles away in Greenwich, Connecticut.  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’s son reported it to the police.  Sgt. Daniel Allen of Greenwich, Connecticut, Police Department did some digging:

“The reverend’s son decided not to purchase the vehicle based on the fact that there was an outstanding lien on the truck.  My continued investigation in attempting to locate Mr. Chichester ultimately ended in me discovering that Mr.Chichester and Mr. Crowe were the same individuals.”

Be it Crowe or Chichester, the ex-tenant seemed to be the one person who might be able to shed light on the Sohus’ disappearance. But he had vanished again.  The investigation had stalled, until the dismembered skeleton was discovered five years later.  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’ backyard:

“Nothing about the bones themselves said there was murder. There were no bullet holes.  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.”

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.  The telltale glow was unmistakable.  Det. Robert Carr, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department administered the test:

“Although 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.”

But whose blood?  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.


More than 20 years after John and Linda Sohus disappeared, a man calling himself Clark Rockefeller was identified as a “person of interest” 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’d 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.  Gerhartstreiter has denied any involvement in the case of John and Linda Sohus.  He is currently serving a five year prison sentence for abducting his 7 year old daughter and assaulting her bodyguard.