A Stanford University surgeon testified Monday that Oakland murder defendant Hans Reiser twice threatened to sue him if he performed surgery on Reiser’s 5-year-old son that the surgeon and another expert both believed was necessary.
Taking the witness stand in Reiser’s trial on charges that he murdered his estranged wife, Nina Reiser, who disappeared Sept. 3, 2006, Dr. Peter Koltai said his two telephone conversations with Reiser in 2005 “almost gave me the chills” because Reiser spoke in “a strange monotonal voice” and didn’t seem to want to do what was best for his child.
Koltai said he’s performed thousands of adenoid surgeries such as the type Rory Reiser needed to cure his hearing and snoring problems, but, “I’ve never had a parent call and say ‘do not operate on my child or I’ll sue you.’” Koltai said, “It’s so far out of the ordinary.”
The surgeon said Reiser told him that he thought Nina Reiser, who had filed for divorce in 2004 and had primary custody of the couple’s two children, Rory and Nio, was inventing symptoms for Rory as a way of getting back at him.
But Koltai said Rory’s hearing problems were obvious and had previously been diagnosed by an Oakland doctor. Koltai said Nina Reiser brought Rory to see him only after Hans Reiser had threatened to sue the Oakland doctor if he performed surgery on Rory. Koltai said he postponed one surgery but eventually operated on Rory on Oct. 28, 2005.
“If you do what’s right for the child you usually come out OK,” Koltai said.
Hans Reiser, a 43-year-old computer engineer, and Nina Reiser married in 1999, but Nina filed for divorce in August of 2004 and they had been living separately and undergoing bitter divorce proceedings for more than two years at the time she disappeared. She was last seen alive when she dropped the couple’s two children off at Hans Reiser’s home on Exeter Drive in the Oakland hills shortly after 2 p.m. on Sept. 3, 2006.
Nina Reiser’s body has never been found despite extensive searches in the Oakland hills and elsewhere, but Hans Reiser who has pleaded not guilty, was charged with murder after Oakland police said they found biological and trace evidence tying him to her death.
The couple’s children live with Nina Reiser’s mother in Russia.