Nina had vanished. But was it really murder?
Hans Reiser dropped out of school in Oakland, California, aged 13. But by his 30s, he was running his own computer software company.
He’d even bagged a Russian wife, Nina, a doctor. They had two beautiful children. But Hans’ marriage was falling apart.
Nina complained that his work obsession was killing their relationship. In 2004, she filed for divorce and was granted sole legal custody of their son and daughter.
But in time, they agreed to share parenting duties. Hans had moved back to his mum’s house in Oakland.
On 3 September 2006, Nina arrived there to drop off the kids for a visit. Later, she was going to visit a friend. She never turned up.
On 9 September her Honda Odyssey minivan was found on a road.
Had Nina vanished into thin air?
Police announced they were treating her disappearance as a murder inquiry. Soon, they arrested Hans.
He denied everything. Nina’s body was still missing.
In November 2007, Hans Reiser pleaded not guilty to murdering his estranged wife.
The court heard how the last time anyone had seen Nina was when she’d dropped her children at the home of Hans’ mother.
Soon after, neighbours had seen Hans spraying water off something in the driveway. His Honda hatchback then disappeared.
When it was finally found by police, forensic investigators had found blood splatters in his car, as well as his mum’s house. But testing couldn’t determine if it was Nina’s blood.
Hans’ defence argued that if there was no body, there could be no murder.
They even claimed that Nina had fled back to her home country.
If so, why was the passenger seat of Reiser’s car missing – and why had he stashed two books on murder investigations in the boot?
But Reiser wasn’t the only one under suspicion. Sean Sturgeon – a former boyfriend of Nina’s – had confessed to eight murders.
Was Nina his ninth victim? Could she really be dead? Or was Sturgeon a red herring?
Had Hans Reiser killed his wife to win sole custody of their children?
It seemed Nina had been scared of Hans… During their separation, she’d obtained a temporary restraining order against him after he’d pushed her during an argument.
She’d claimed that he owed her thousands of dollars in unpaid childcare expenses.
Meanwhile, Hans’ company had not been doing as well as it seemed and he’d been investigated for fraud.
Had he lashed out at his ex, with fatal consequences?
On 28 April 2008, Hans Reiser was found guilty of first-degree murder. But, as a deal, if he revealed the location of Nina’s body, he could plead guilty to second-degree murder.
He led police to a grave half a mile from his home, where Nina’s skeleton lay.
She’d been strangled.
Reiser was sentenced to 15 years to life.
Sean Sturgeon made up all his murder confessions – there’s no evidence he killed anyone.
By Rachel Tompkins