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'Rockefeller' driver testifies in kidnap trial

Describes taking suspect, child to New York City

By Jonathan Saltzman and Martin Finucane
Globe Staff / May 30, 2009
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Her cellphone kept ringing in the car, but the friend she knew as Clark Rockefeller insisted that Aileen Ang not answer it.

Ang, a 31-year-old jewelry and website designer from Ipswich, testified yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court that she drove Rockefeller and his daughter to New York City last summer but had no idea he had just kidnapped the 7-year-old girl and that she was an unwitting getaway driver.

Rockefeller had told Ang he needed her to quickly drive him from Boston that Sunday, July 27, to see a 72-foot catamaran he had bought. During the drive, she said, she got repeated calls from a friend, but Rockefeller told her not to pick up the phone.

"He said it made him nervous that I was using my cellphone while I was driving," Ang said at the defendant's custodial kidnapping trial. Indeed, Rockefeller was so insistent about getting to his destination that he rebuffed Ang's repeated entreaties to let her stop to go to the bathroom or to buy gas, she said.

An instant after she dropped off Rockefeller and the girl nicknamed "Snooks" at Grand Central Station in Manhattan, she testified, her phone rang again and she answered it, only to get stunning news from the friend who had been trying to reach her: An Amber Alert had been posted for Rockefeller's daughter.

Ang said she immediately called 911 and went to a police station. The next day, she testified, she spent 12 hours at an FBI office being "grilled" by agents who evidently thought the diminutive, soft-spoken woman might have been part of the plot to kidnap Reigh Storrow Mills Boss.

Ang was one of a series of prosecution witnesses who testified yesterday, the second day of testimony, about the circumstances surrounding the highly publicized kidnapping and Reigh's safe recovery six days later in Baltimore, where her father was arrested. The defendant, whom prosecutors say is really a Bavarian-born con man named Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, claims he is not guilty by reason of insanity.

Dr. Liza Brooks, a Brookline psychologist for Reigh who had worked with her parents during their custodial dispute and divorce, testified that she wrote a letter in September 2007 updating the status of the case and made an observation that could bolster the defense's claim of insanity.

"That Clark is weird is a given," she wrote. "I don't yet have a handle on what the weird is."

Jurors also heard testimony from Julie Gochar, the Baltimore real estate saleswoman who sold the defendant the carriage house that he took Reigh to after the abduction. It was Gochar who contacted authorities on Aug. 1 to say she recognized Rockefeller as a customer after seeing a televised news report about the abduction, leading to his arrest the following day.

She testified that the defendant identified himself to her in an introductory e-mail message as Charles "Chip" Smith, a sailor based in South America who planned to move to Baltimore to build catamarans. He claimed to home school his daughter, Muffy, on his boat.

But when the real estate saleswoman finally met him, she testified, she was surprised to see a very unseaworthy-looking man with dyed red hair and pasty-white skin who claimed not to have a tan because he had been sailing in the rain. He also claimed that Muffy had been born to a surrogate mother from Sweden.

The prosecution witnesses added to a long list of fantastic stories told by Rockefeller, whom prosecutors contend is a world-class liar. The defense argues he is mentally ill and suffers from grandiose delusions and narcissistic personality disorder and that he should not be held legally responsible for his actions.

Ang testified that she had met Rockefeller in August 2007 at the Boston Sailing Center. Both took lessons and went to a couple of boat shows together but never dated, she said. He told her he was getting an advanced degree in astronomy at Harvard. She met Snooks, and Rockefeller repeatedly invited Ang to sail with them around the world.

On the afternoon of July 27 last year, she said, she met him at the sailing center after he had asked her to drive him to New York City for $500. She had no idea he had just fled the Back Bay during a supervised visit with his daughter. She also had no idea that Snooks was coming along.

Rockefeller got in the back of the car with Snooks and paid Ang a few hundred dollars. Both lay down until the car left Boston, Ang said. Rockefeller told Ang that his daughter had a headache and that he was tired.

Ang said she did not play the radio during the drive and did not hear about the Amber Alert. When she finally did drop the two of them off, she said, Rockefeller tossed the rest of the promised $500 on the seat and did not even say goodbye.

Also yesterday, an Arlington coin dealer described selling nearly $800,000 in gold coins to a man who called himself Clark Rock a few weeks before the kidnapping. Authorities said the money was apparently from his divorce settlement with Reigh's mother, Sandra Boss. The dealer said Rock bought the gold coins in two purchases and each time took them home on the T.