The mother of murder defendant Hans Reiser's admitted in court today that she told two Oakland police officers five days after his estranged wife disappeared that she never would have abandoned the couple's two children.
Called as a prosecution witness in Hans Reiser's trial on charges that he murdered Nina Reiser, 31, who disappeared on Sept. 3, 2006, Beverly Palmer confirmed that she told police on Sept. 8, 2006, that Nina “is conscientious” and “I can't imagine her leaving the children.”
Under questioning by prosecutor Paul Hora, Palmer said that when she first learned that Nina Reiser had disappeared, “I thought somebody had kidnapped her.”
Alternatively, DuBois has said that Nina might have been killed by Russian spies or mobsters, alleging that her family has connections with Russian spy agencies.
Hans and Nina Reiser married in 1999 but Nina Reiser filed for divorce in August 2004 and they had been undergoing bitter divorce proceedings for more than two years when she disappeared.
Nina Reiser was awarded both legal and physical custody of the couple's two children, but Hans Reiser was allowed to have them every other weekend and one weeknight a week.
The body of Nina Reiser, who was last seen alive when she dropped off the couple's two children at the house on Exeter Drive in Oakland where Hans Reiser lived with his mother, has never been found despite extensive searches in the Oakland hills and elsewhere.
Hans Reiser has insisted that he is innocent.
On the witness stand today, Palmer qualified her original statement that Nina was conscientious by saying, “sometimes she was and sometimes she wasn't.”
Palmer said, “She did leave (the children) twice before.”
However, Palmer admitted she never said that to police.
“I knew it then, but I just didn't think of it,” she said. “I just forgot about it at the time.”
Palmer also conceded that on both occasions that Nina left the children she made arrangements for them to be taken care of.
On one occasion Nina left the children with a nanny and on another she left them in the care of her parents, Palmer said.
During that time, Hans Reiser was away from the children for months at a time because he was in Russia on business for his software company, Palmer said.
Palmer conceded that leaving the children in the care of others isn't the same as disappearing completely without telling anyone.
“I admit there's a difference” and the two circumstances are “not identical,” Palmer said.
Palmer testified that when Hans Reiser moved to her house he didn't have a car but she let him use a Honda Civic CRX she owned.
She said she was “angry” at her son when she returned from being away over Labor Day weekend last year, which is when Nina disappeared, and the CRX was missing and Hans was driving a Honda hybrid car she normally used.
“That left me stranded at my house without a car because up in the Oakland hills without a car you can't go to the store or anything,” Palmer said.
She said she eventually retrieved the Honda hybrid, hid it at a friend's house and put a club on its steering wheel so her son couldn't find it and drive it.
She also said she ended up renting a car for about two weeks so she could get around.
In his opening statement in Reiser's trial last month, Hora told jurors that when the Honda Civic CRX was found by Oakland police near Exeter Drive on Sept. 18, 2006, 15 days after Nina disappeared, its front passenger seat was missing, which the prosecutor said was “one incredibly unusual thing.”
Palmer said that when two officers from the Oakland Police Department's missing persons section interviewed her on Sept. 8, 2006, “I wanted to help them in any way I could.”
But she said she refused to let the officers search her house “because I felt intruded upon.”
Asked by Hora if she had seen something at the house that she didn't want police to see, Palmer said that wasn't the case. She also said her son did not advise her not to let police search the house.
Palmer admitted that she talkedto Hans Reiser by phone as recently as Sunday night.
When Hora asked if Reiser talked to her about her testimony in his case, Palmer said, “I think so but I can't remember what he said.”
Palmer will continue testifying when Reiser's trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday morning.