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A Superior Court judge testified in a murder case against a man who posed as an heir to the Rockefeller fortune, saying that more than two decades ago he lent a chain saw to the defendant while the two were living in San Marino.

William Stewart said he was a lawyer when Christian Gerhartsreiter, then known as Christopher Chichester, asked to borrow an electric chain saw in late 1984 or early 1985.

"He said he had a problem with a branch on a tree that was scratching a window," Stewart said Thursday.

Stewart, who met the defendant at his church, said Chichester kept the tool for several months, returning it just before leaving town in the spring of 1985.

The hearing for Gerhartsreiter will determine whether there is enough evidence to put him on trial for the apparent bludgeoning death of John Sohus that only came to light when the victim's bones were dug up at the former home of John and Linda Sohus in 1994, nearly 10 years after the couple vanished. Gerhartsreiter was a tenant in the guesthouse at the home.

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