Already serving a state prison term of 15 years to life for murdering his estranged wife Nina, computer engineer Hans Reiser has now been hit with a wrongful death lawsuit filed by his two children.
The suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court Thursday, says that Rory Reiser, 8, and Niorline Reiser, 7, “have suffered a tremendous loss, including the loss of love, support and companionship, comfort, affection and society of Nina.”
The suit says that Hans Reiser's conduct “negligently inflicted serious emotional distress on Rory and Niorline Reiser” because both were in Hans' house in the Oakland hills when he murdered Nina, “which has resulted in severe emotional distress and psychological trauma.”
The suit seeks unspecified general and special damages as well as punitive and exemplary damages.
Nina Reiser, who was born in Russia and was trained as a physician there, married Hans, who is a native of Oakland, in 1999 but she filed for divorce in 2004 and was granted legal custody of their children.
Nina, who was 31 at the time, was last seen alive the afternoon of Sept. 3, 2006, when she dropped off the couple's two children at the house at 6979 Exeter Drive in the Oakland hills that Hans Reiser shared with his
Hans Reiser, 44, who was prosecuted for Nina's death even though her body hadn't been found, was convicted of first-degree murder on April 28 after a six-month trial.
In an unusual deal, prosecutor Paul Hora and Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman agreed last Friday to allow Reiser to plead guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree murder in exchange for his cooperation on July 7 in leading authorities to the site near his home where he buried Nina.
Throughout Reiser's trial, William DuBois, his criminal defense lawyer, said Reiser has very few assets because he has spent most of his money on his divorce case and his murder case.
Attorney Arturo Gonzalez of the San Francisco firm Morrison Foerster, who is representing Rory and Niorline pro bono, said today that he filed the lawsuit to protect their interests because “I don't think anyone, except the defendant, knows how many assets he has.”
He said the children, who have been living with Nina's mother, Irina Sharanova, in St. Petersburg, Russia, since December 2006, “are struggling financially.”
Gonzalez said that even if Reiser doesn't currently have much money, his computer file business, Namesys Inc., and various patents might be worth a fair amount of money.
Gonzalez also said Reiser “is a fairly intelligent guy” and might be able to invent a valuable product because he'll have a lot of free time while he's in prison.
Gonzalez said, “We're hoping to resolve this quietly and quickly with a stipulated judgment” but he will seek a trial if Reiser isn't cooperative.
DuBois and co-counsel Richard Tamor couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.
In 11 days of testimony in his trial, Reiser denied that he had anything to do with Nina's disappearance.
But in a tape-recorded statement to authorities on Aug. 21, Reiser said he killed Nina on Sept. 3, 2006, by hitting her in the face and
strangling her with a judo hold while their children played computer games one floor below.
Reiser gave the statement as part of the agreement that led to his second-degree murder plea.
Reiser said that at the end of a two-hour-long discussion he became “enraged” at Nina after they talked about his allegation that she was inventing illnesses in the children, particularly in Rory, as a way of getting back at him.