The mystery man who calls himself Clark Rockefeller told NBC News that his own ex-wife never believed he was really related to the fabulously wealthy family of the same surname — but claims she used the magical moniker to advance her career just the same.
“She knew early on that I had virtually not much in common with the Rockefeller family,” the man at the center of one of the most talked-about stories of the year told Natalie Morales in an exclusive jailhouse interview set to air on TODAY Monday and Tuesday. Nonetheless, he said that Sandra Boss — the former spouse he is charged with snatching daughter Reigh from last month — “referred to me as having been descended from John D. Rockefeller and such whenever it was to her advantage.”
The man known as the 'fake Rockefeller' wore his prison grays as he sat alongside his lawyer Stephen Hrones for the interview. In it, he asked Morales to call him Clark Rockefeller, even though authorities say he is actually Christian Gerhartsreiter, a native German who moved to the U.S. as an exchange student in the late 1970s.
Who is 'Clark Rockefeller'?
While Gerhartsreiter, 48, has claimed to suffer from a profound loss of memory, authorities believe they actually may be dealing with a con man who is attempting to elude prosecution by deliberately sowing confusion about his sketchy background.
That background first fell under a spotlight in July, when he became the subject of an international manhunt after abducting his daughter from Boss during a supervised visit. Now he not only awaits trial on kidnapping charges in Boston, but has been identified as a “person of interest” in a double homicide during the mid-1980s in California.
Gerhartsreiter alleges that he remembers little before that time other than brief snatches of his childhood. He told Morales that the name “Clark Rockefeller” was bestowed upon him.
While Gerhartsreiter exhibited the mild manner many TV viewers have witnessed during his televised court appearances, he made it clear there is little love lost between him and Boss, whom he says not only reveled in the Rockefeller name, but exploited it whenever it was to her advantage.
“She usually did so in an understated way – calling special attention to it by keeping it extra quiet,” he told Morales. “Sort of, ‘Psst, she’s married to a Rockefeller.’ It’s like saying you went to Harvard. It opens doors.”
Gerhartsreiter said that Boss climbed the corporate ladder as a management consultant during their marriage, and that “many of her colleagues believed that it had a lot to do with me and my name.” However, she herself never believed she was married to a real Rockefeller, he alleges.
“No, clearly not,” Gerhartsreiter told Morales. “Between the two of us, I don’t think it ever came up specifically as to, like, you know, let’s look up in the family tree. But she knew early on that I had virtually not much in common with the Rockefeller family.”
TODAY producers are attempting to contact Boss for her response to Gerhartsreiter's allegations.
Suggests DNA testing
However, “Clark” himself only added confusion to the situation by refusing to dismiss the notion that he may indeed be a real Rockefeller. “From what I’ve heard lately, it might not be, but as far as I know, it’s my name,” he told Morales. “Perhaps at some point we can do a DNA test to really find out.”
Asked by Morales whether he himself used the famous last name is get ahead or curry favor in life, he responded, ``I always left that ambiguous.”
He expresses confusion at authorities’ allegation that he actually Christian Gerhartsreiter, who was born in 1961 in then West Germany – he says he has fleeting memories of growing up in New York City.
While claiming he has no clear memory of his parents or his family, “there are certain things that I haven’t forgotten,” he told Morales. “For example, the garbage strike in New York, I remember that very clearly. I remember the taxi strikes. I remember going to the zoo in Central Park when it wasn’t what it is today – when it was actually a downright dangerous place to go.