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The Grock Chronicles

Click here for Margo Howard’s Week One coverage of the Clark Rockefeller case.


There is great anticipation about Sandra Boss’s appearance. A larger than usual number of still photographers are hanging around on the courthouse steps, since only one pool photographer is allowed in the courtroom. Grock (my name, as you’ll recall, for Clark Rockefeller/Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter) has arrived, as he does every day, wearing handcuffs and no socks.

There is a half hour delay in beginning the proceedings because the Green Line of the “T” (Boston’s Public transit system) was delayed with two of the jurors on it. When the pair arrived, they were congratulated and thanked by the judge for walking the rest of the way.

The first witness of the day was Daryl Hawkins, now a bus driver and maintenance man in Naples, Florida, but previously a Boston taxi driver who had graduated to “a black car service.” Aha! Here was the SUV driver! One day early in 2008, when rain was pouring down, he spotted Grock looking for a cab. Grock was dressed as a sailor (not of the U.S. Navy variety), so Hawkins assumed he was affluent. He offered him a ride home for $15 and gave him his card, hoping for more business. He recalled that Grock had “an eloquent way of speaking, like Thurston Howell III from Gilligan’s Island.” Over an objection, the judge allowed him to do an imitation, just as he had for the grand jury, whereupon he did a passable version of Locust Valley lockjaw.

His first payoff for his $15 good deed was a trip to New York, “for a board meeting,” and, along the way, they stopped for lunch. He ordered a sandwich and Grock had--he paused--“steak tartarrre,” a word he elongated to indicate a conversational raised eyebrow. He thought it cheap that Grock did not offer to pay for his sandwich.

Overhearing phone calls his passenger was making, he learned that Grock was “tired of these board meetings. These meetings were Rockefeller family monthly meetings and the person who ran the board was autocratic.” Driving through New Haven, Grock said he’d gone to Yale. There were more cell phone calls. “It sounded as though he was negotiating cash deals about self-sealing stem bolts--maybe Defense Department stuff.”

Riding back to Boston, Grock spoke of the coming weekend. “He was going to see his daughter, but some guy, Harold, was gonna tag along, and he was really upset that this guy was coming along.” Grock asked Hawkins how he would get rid of this guy. Then he asked the driver if he knew Senator Chafee. He didn’t. Well, anyway, Chafee’s son invited him sailing in Newport, and he didn’t want Harold tagging along. The driver suggested going to a restaurant, then going out the back door. Grock made an offer: “I’ll give you two grand if you can get rid of this guy”--and Hawkins agreed to “the back of the restaurant thing.”

On the appointed Sunday, Hawkins waited for well over an hour. Grock was late. Finally he saw his client, with Snooks on his shoulders. He started the car, and the father and the kid got in--but almost immediately after, there was a “clunk” sound, and then Snooks began crying. Grock said, “Go go go!” Where’s the third person, Hawkins asked himself? He felt someone trying to pull on the door, so he accelerated. “Then the man did tumble. I really didn’t think anybody would get hurt. I thought the guy was as crazy as Clark led me to believe he was. And all I could think was: At least we got rid of Harold.”

Hawkins thought he was going to Rhode Island, but Grock told him to take a right, then a left, then to stop. He watched him get out and rap on the window of a cab saying he was taking his daughter to Mass General. Grock paid him the full amount. Driving away, he saw an amber alert looking for a black car with a Red Sox sticker. Hawkins didn’t realize that they were talking about his car. “Then on the radio all I heard was ‘Clark Rockefeller,’ and my whole world collapsed. I was the getaway car for a kidnapping.” He pulled over to the side of the road and cried. He didn’t call the police, being concerned that he had been involved in something criminal. He watched the 11:00 o’clock news with the friends he was staying with, and they told him he’d better get a lawyer. He got a call at midnight from the Boston Police Department asking if he knew Clark Rockefeller, and he said no. The he went outside and removed the Red Sox sticker from his car, which he left in his friend’s driveway while his daughter’s boyfriend drove him to the police department. He was not charged and felt he should return to Florida.

After that dramatic opening act, the main attraction: Sandra Boss. Although there had been a brief video of her making a plea to return her child, very few people knew what she looked like. There was speculation that she was either a stunner who got snookered, or a woman of limited physical appeal who saw Grock as the last train to Paducah. In fact, she was a thin and appealing blonde, now 42. She was comfortable on the stand, laughed easily (granted, only a few times), and likeable. In a strong voice which really did sound like she could be Mrs. Thurston Howell III, she acknowledged that her former husband was the defendant, and that she resided in London and was the Director/senior partner of the London office for McKinsey & Co.

They’d met at a party he gave for eight people. It was a “Clue party,” and he was Professor Plum, wearing maroon trousers, and she was Miss Scarlet, wearing a red scarf. She saw him on her next trip to New York, and they began “light dating.” He was the aggressor. She found him polite, intelligent, fit, charming, well-dressed, and able to talk about anything.

He proposed in Maine, at the time of her graduation from Harvard Business School. He spoke of his childhood and his parents, George Percy Rockefeller and Mary Roberts, sadly killed on their way to visit him at college. He was born in New York, and they lived in a townhouse at #19 Sutton Place. A childhood accident left him aphasic, making it difficult to speak. He was tutored at home, and, as we know, went to Yale at a young age. Regarding his financial situation, he had quite a bit of money, but it was encumbered by a lawsuit: His father, it seems, was wrongly thought to have embezzled from the military.

Fast forward. There were eight wedding guests with no family or friends from the groom’s side. After the marriage, Boss said Grock started to show more temper, and became more controlling … wanting to walk her to and from work every day, and being less supportive of her seeing her friends. He would further criticize her friends as “stupid and tacky.” He also controlled the finances.

Things got worse and more stressful. For one thing, he was displeased with the limited amount of money she was earning, although at the four year mark of the Boss-Rockefeller marriage, he had not earned cent one. She made the observation that he could get a job and contribute, but he said his non-profit work was very important and would lead to big things.

In 2000 she concluded she needed to change her marital status. He tried to woo her back, taking her shopping, and generally being very romantic in his conversation. She was receptive, but not decisive.

Then she discovered she was pregnant and had a difficult decision. Her Episcopalian upbringing caused her to think she must try to work at her marriage because now she was not the only one involved. So they reconciled (even though he suffered through bouts of uncertainty), and, in short order, he had a big announcement: He was engaged in a start-up company in the physics arena and had acquired a patent.

He wasn’t there for the birth and did not show up until 18 hours later. And he, alone, chose the names. During her maternity leave, Boss was the sole caretaker for three months. Then she hired a nanny for a year and a half. When she resigned, there was a second nanny, then baby-sitters. At that point, Grock took over, saying he was better than any of them. He was in charge, and she was doing things his way. As we know from other witnesses, they were living in little New England towns, she was commuting, and the kid was not in any kind of school or play group. Boss finally said she wasn’t happy with all the traveling she was required to do. He said, “It’s fine for me.”

Late January 2007 she left for good. She had to pay for Grock’s lawyer. The original child custody order gave her two days a week with Snooks, and him five. She immediately started pressuring for more time--and got it. Then almost all the time with Snooks was given to her after Rudewicz proved that there was no Clark Rockefeller. Finally, her petition asked for full custody. His response: People have known him by that name for 15 years, and that’s who he was … but she could have custody and move to London for a million dollars. Her rejoinder was, “Let’s talk about the number.” They settled on $750,000, plus two cars. (This is a man with no license.) And … he wanted a dress. Again I had to ask the reporter sitting next to me if I had heard this correctly. I had.

Once they were kaput, Grock started to skip meetings and visits and didn’t respond to e-mails and phone calls from the little girl. Then Boss’s testimony got to the part where she got the frantic call from Howard, the social worker who she said called her screaming and hysterical. No one had any idea where Grock and Snooks were. She set up camp at The Four Seasons in Boston with the police, the FBI, and her own investigator while she waited for word. She stayed there until she flew to Baltimore, six days later, to retrieve Snooks. She remembered this as the worst period of her life, and one she would never be able to get out of her mind.

A small addendum from Mason Peltz, a witness who testified briefly. He had Christmas dinner, 2007, with some friends … and Grock. Most of the conversation, he said, was about Grock having lost custody of his child, who was taken back to England by court order. The injustice of it all, Grock said, was that he had had the child out of wedlock with an Englishwoman who had initially given him sole custody. That is, before she changed her mind.

Week Two, Day Two

Today, the defense has a go at Sandra Boss. But first let me clear up one issue from the previous session and spill the beans about another. With apologies to the fetishists among you, the dress Grock wanted back from his wife was one he had bought her, not one he wanted to wear. So let’s be happy for the poor guy. In addition to all his other tsouris, he at least is not a cross-dresser.

Also, there was one key motion that seems to have been decided by the judge but not announced. I am announcing it here: Grock’s gold coins, impounded by the FBI, will be freed up, and most likely used to pay his legal bills. Although the lead counsel for the defense said he was not allowed to answer that question for me, someone very close to him sat next to me … and all I had to do was ask.

The opening salvo from Denner, Grock’s lead lawyer had to do with her contact and interviews with Boston police and FBI; whether or not the DA had primed her for her grand jury appearance; whether or not there was a rehearsal for the courtroom trial, or if she reviewed any of the documents or affidavits. Her answer to everything was “No.”

Denner then got into the twin thing, which I found most interesting, being the child of a twin. He suggested Boss and her sister were wildly competitive. She acknowledged this, but substituted “healthily” for “wildly.” Her sister and Grock, for example, would reminisce about Yale, where the sister had gone and Grock said he had gone. They’d laugh about places they’d both frequented, like Morry’s, the famous watering hole … where of course the 14-year-old Grock could not have gone, had he, in fact, actually been attending Yale.

Grock’s lawyer then got into her job and her compensation--close to two million dollars a year when they got divorced. But she didn’t have control of the finances, remember; he did. Denner questioned why such a dynamic and bright woman would accede to whatever her husband wanted. This got him where he didn’t want to go, because Boss then mentioned abuse. She said, simply, “I was afraid.” Her personal life “was scary.”

Denner then stepped, unwittingly, into the Venus/Mars thing.

“But weren’t you advising the biggest companies in the world?”

"I was giving business advice, not personal advice,” she said. (Here’s where I wanted to pipe up and say that other people’s problems are always easier to figure out than your own. And business problems were about, well, business.)

Didn’t she think it odd that he had no driver’s license and didn’t drive?

She answered that he told her he had an eye problem. Just as he couldn’t fly because he had an ear problem. And she’d never seen his Social Security card because he’d told her it was kept at his bank. (The ID problem sort of stopped me. I mean, college kids and crooks have phony IDs made all the time.)

Denner asked, “Did you ever see him with a checkbook?”

“Yes,” she said. “Mine”

Of course she had never met any of his work colleagues. Or Rockefeller relatives. She had only seen pictures of people he said were his parents, and a limited number of pictures they were. Denner asked, “Did it never occur to you that something was really off?”

“I think the thing you’re missing,” she said, “is that I didn’t have a lot of energy for this topic. He told very compelling stories and talked often of his need for privacy.”

“Did you ever think him mentally ill?”

“He was often unpleasant, angry, and totally lacked empathy. I saw behavior that made me think he wasn’t at all well, in the sense of being obsessive compulsive … and not always truthful.”

As for how he explained the fact that his international do-gooder businesses brought in nary a nickel, Boss said his excuse was that getting compensated would be beneath a Rockefeller. It would look like he needed the money.. He did tell her, though, that his pro bono work could lead to government positions. He aspired to the Federal Reserve board.

Denner wanted her to cave and admit she knew he was crackers. Instead, she said this. “I do not believe he was delusional.” (Part of the definition for legal insanity.) “I think the defendant was lying to me. He was absolutely clear on what he was doing. He could keep a lot of stories straight for a lot of different people.”

Denner kept strumming the delusional banjo, and was often overruled.

Boss acknowledged that, over time, she questioned his honesty but not his sanity. Some of his whoppers were almost laughable.

He took his $50,000,000 inheritance to settle a lawsuit against his dead father who was wrongly accused of embezzling from the military. This sounds neither feasible nor Rockefelleresque. It would, however, explain why he was penniless.

He’d inherited a billion dollars worth of art--in a trust. “We can sell it in ten years,” she said he told her, “but then, suddenly there was something else, and then I realized he wasn’t going to sell anything.”

He had sold his (imaginary) jet propulsion business, he had told others, for 1.2 billion. He never, however, told his wife of this “windfall.”

One day he mentioned his mother, Ann Carter. “But what about Mary Roberts?” she asked. (Mary Roberts being the wife of George Percy Rockefeller, the parents he had mentioned during their courtship, the ones that were killed on their way up to Yale when he was 17. “I never told you that,” he responded. Actually, it turns out that Carter was a child actress, which Boss only learned when she was exiting the marriage.

He was mute for about eight years (the aphasic deal) and supposedly, the first word he spoke came when, upon seeing a dog, he proclaimed, “woofness.”

And … he was part of the Trilateral Commission.

Denner displayed astonishment that Boss couldn’t discern the fabulous and grandiose statements for the nonsense they were. It seemed pretty clear to me: This man has never been a woman who dated. When he suggested that Grock’s sense of loss, regarding custody, might have matched her own during the six days of the kidnapping, Boss replied, “No. What he said was, ‘You can have her. I want money.’”

Deaken, the DA, took over, asking if Grock had ever been treated for mental illness. The answer was, “Not to my knowledge.” Had she known of his ever going to a doctor? “Yes, the dentist.” Then he asked if she’d ever seen anyone challenge him about being a Rockefeller? “No, never.”

The next witness was Amy Jeneen Jersild, now Duhnke, the woman who had made it possible for Grock to get a green card. Now a 50-year-old cook in Milwaukee, she was tall and sturdy-looking with gray hair worn in a long braid down her back. Her story was not uninteresting. In 1981 her sister, Elaine, was dating Grock. Elaine, however--though dating him--did not want to marry him … she just wanted to keep him in the country, so she asked/told her sister to marry him! (For those of you on overload at this point, I wish to call to your attention to the fact that here we have another sister introducing Grock to a wife!)

Having a big heart, we may assume (or, owing Elaine some enormous debt we cannot even begin to imagine), Amy agreed to go through with the sham marriage. Grock was then 20, she thinks. And he had a car then! They drove to the courthouse to secure the necessary papers, and he gave her a note so she could study his name because “it had so many letters in it.” (He was Mr. Gerhartsreiter at the time.) After the marriage, some days later, they never saw each other again. Their divorce was only secured in 1993 when she wanted to marry Mr. Duhnke. Her appearance in court was as brief as the marriage, and the next witness was brought forward.

Frank Watt, special agent with the FBI in Baltimore, was also with his agency’s SWAT team and special ops group. He was tall, trim, and straight from central casting. He described his FBI confreres “making a perimeter encircling the target.” (This would be the house.) They had to hang around for more than 24 hours before anyone exited. It was the next afternoon that they saw him: a white male, mid-40s, with glasses being the distinguishing feature. Of course they had a photograph.

(A word about the glasses. Back then, Grock wore the big, thick black frames that made him look like Woody Allen. For court, he was wearing more modest wire rims which I suspect were selected for him by his lawyers.)

But back to the SWAT team. Agent Watt radioed his tactical units to prepare to make the arrest. Cars and agents on foot surrounded Grock, with instructions to halt and show his hands. Grock wound up being tackled because he didn’t immediately show his hands. He did, however, provide the keys to his house. Then he “was transported to be processed.” 

A large detail of FBI agents roamed through the house calling out, “FBI! FBI!” so that any people inside would not think they were being burgled. Then they found Snooks in her room. “Clearly,” Agent Watt said, “a room for a little girl.” She struck them as friendly and outgoing “and glad to see us.” They took her outside, and she received a phone call from her mother, “which made her happy.”

Then came Mary Kathryn Book, an FBI fingerprinter based in Quantico. She said she took prints of the living and of “victims.” I suspected she’s testified before because she sounded metallic and droning, as if she were reading, though she clearly wasn’t. She gave a little lesson to the jury about working with chemicals, powders, ultra lights, furrows, whorls, and who knows what else. Her purpose, of course, was to prove that Gerhartsreiter and Clark Rockefeller were one and the same. I don’t think the jury doubted this for a minute.

At this point the prosecution rested its case. We were done for the day and ahead of schedule, the judge told us, smiling. As people milled around outside the courtroom, Denner was telling a clump of reporters that he was having a hard time understanding why Boss was so blind to Grock’s insane behavior. One of the TV reporters told me afterward that she didn’t think his spinning was having much effect. And then I understood why defense counsel was always so available to the press … whereas the DA always hotfooted it back to his offices on another floor at the close of court each day.

Margo Howard writes "Dear Margo" for and Creators Syndicate.

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