Two fellow parents at an Oakland school testified today they thought it was inappropriate and strange when Hans Reiser told her at a school party that his estranged wife Nina and their two kids were a financial burden to him.
Taking the witness stand in Hans Reiser's trial on charges he murdered Nina, who disappeared on Sept. 3, 2006, Clare and Andrew Conry-Murray said Reiser told them at a school party in the spring of 2006 that he would be free financially if he didn't have to take care of them.
Conry-Murray, who left the Bay Area in the summer of 2006 with her husband and two children and is now a visiting professor at the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y., said, “I thought it was an inappropriate and
strange thing to say at a party for parents.”
She said, “It really stood out for me because it's not the normal thing parents complain about.”
Andrew Conry-Murray said Reiser's comments at the party, which was hosted by other parents, “seemed to come out of nowhere” and “his tone was so vehement.”
He said, “I just felt that this was not the kind of thing you would expect to hear at an occasion like this, a casual social occasion.”
Hans Reiser, a 43-year-old computer engineer, and Nina married in 1999, but Nina filed for divorce in August of 2004 and they had been undergoing bitter divorce proceedings for more than two years at the time she
disappeared. She was 31 at the time.
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 murdering her after Oakland police said they found biological and trace evidence tying him to her death.
DuBois has suggested that Nina might still be alive and in hiding in Russia, where she was born and were she was trained as a physician. The couple's children are currently living with Nina's mother in Russia.
Asked by prosecutor Paul Hora if Nina were the type of mother who would vanish voluntarily and abandon her children, Clare Conry-Murray said, “That would be impossible.”
She said Nina “was the most patient person, gentle and soft-spoken and was really great with kids. She was a great parent.”
Mark McGothigan, an Oakland man who described Hans Reiser's mother, Beverly Palmer, as “my best friend,” said that when he saw Reiser two days after Nina disappeared he didn't say anything about her being missing.
McGothigan also said he was present when Reiser was arrested at his house on Oct. 10, 2006.
Asked by DuBois if he knew Hans “to be kind and gentle,” McGothigan said, “Sometimes he could be that way.”
Although DuBois has said he thinks Nina Reiser could still be alive, Anthony Britto, the owner of the house that she rented at 338 49th Street in Oakland's Temescal District, said he thinks she was the type of person who would have notified him if she was moving out of the area.
Britto said Nina Reiser always paid her monthly rent of $2,100 on time but he never received her rent for September of 2006, when she disappeared.
Britto said he recognized her handwriting on an envelope and on a rent check dated Aug. 31 that were in her car when police found it several weeks after she disappeared.
He said that by vanishing, Nina Reiser forfeited $4,100 she would havereceived by getting back both her last month's rent and her security deposit.
Britto said Nina kept his house “in very good condition” and described her as “a dream tenant.”
Monica MacDonald, a teacher at Grand Lake Montessori School, said the Reisers' son, Rory, told her on several occasions to shut up and that he wouldn't listen to her because “women shouldn't have rights in this country.”
MacDonald also said that Hans Reiser told her that “Nina is a liar” and “Nina is a thief.”
Asked by DuBois how she reacted to Reiser's remarks, MacDonald said, “I don't think I had any comment. I was baffled.”
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman, who is presiding over Reiser's case, told jurors today that the trial is likely to last well beyond the original estimated finish date of Jan. 17.
Goodman said it's difficult to predict how long the trial will last because “some witnesses take longer than counsel estimates.”
The jury will get a holiday break of about three weeks, as the trial will adjourn at the end of the day on Dec. 18 and won't resume until sometime in the second week of January.