The 8-year-old son of computer programmer Hans Reiser testified today that he's “mad” at his father because he thinks his father hid his mother and may be responsible for her disappearance 14 months ago.
Fresh off an airplane from his new home in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he's been living with his maternal grandmother and his sister since last December, Rory Reiser said, “Who else could do something to Nina (Reiser) except Hans?”
Dressed in blue jeans and a grey long-sleeved shirt with burgundy stripes and with a Russian social worker sitting at his side, Rory said he's upset with his father because “no one knows about her (Nina) except her friends and Hans.”
Prosecutors believe that Hans Reiser, 43, murdered Nina Reiser, who was 31 when she was last seen alive, sometime after she dropped Rory and his sister Nio, 6, at his home on Exeter Drive in the early afternoon hours of Sept. 3, 2006.
Her body has never been found despite extensive searches in the Oakland hills and elsewhere.
Hans Reiser, who's known for his innovations for the Linux operating system, met Nina in Russia, where she was born and was trained as a gynecologist and where he did business for his software company, Namesys Inc.
They were married in 1999 but separated in 2004 and were undergoing contentious divorce proceedings at the time she disappeared, although the divorce wasn't finalized.
Nina Reiser was awarded both legal and physical custody of their children, but Hans Reiser was allowed to have them one weeknight a week and every other weekend.
Hans Reiser's attorney, William DuBois, has said that Nina Reiser might have been killed by Russian spies or mobsters, because her father works at a spa frequented by Russian spies, or she might still be alive and in
hiding in Russia or elsewhere.
But Rory, the first witness in what is expected to be a lengthy trial, said he hasn't seen his mother since September 2006, has no idea where she is and she hasn't called or written to him or his sister since she disappeared.
Asked by prosecutor Paul Hora how he feels about his mother's disappearance, Rory, speaking in a soft voice, said, “Sad.”
Hans Reiser hadn't seen his son since last December, when Nina's mother, Irina Sharanova, took Rory and Nio to Russia for theholidays and kept them there, defying a court order.
Reiser signaled to Rory and made a hugging motion to him when Rory entered the courtroom, before jurors were present, but Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman told Reiser to stop communicating with his son.
In nearly a full day of testimony, Rory, who spoke softly, often got dates mixed up and said he didn't remember many details about the last time he saw his mother and what he did that day and the days that followed.
However, letters that Rory wrote to his father from Russia indicate he thinks of his mother often.
In one letter shown to jurors today, Rory wrote to his father shortly before Rory's birthday on Sept. 28 and said, “On my birthday…my best present is Nina.”
In the letter, Rory asked his father, “Where is Nina?” on ten consecutive lines.
In another letter, Rory wrote, “I am not going to the USA. Only if Irina (his grandmother) goes to the USA for company. I don't want to see you Hans.”
Rory also testified about pictures he drew which he said depict the events of the night after Nina disappeared.
One picture shows a stick-figure male, labeled “Hans,” carrying a large ball-like object.
Asked by Hora what the object portrayed, Rory said, “I think here is Nina,” indicating that he may have seen his father carrying his mother in a bag the night after she disappeared.
Hora will continue questioning Rory on Wednesday. DuBois will cross-examine him on Thursday.
Before Rory took the witness stand this morning, DuBois told Judge Goodman he thinks Rory “has been under the heavy influence of his grandmother (Sharanova) and that influenced the letters he wrote.”
Sharanova traveled to the Bay Area with Rory on Sunday, but at DuBois' request Goodman excluded her from his courtroom today, as she will testify inthe trial at a later time.
DuBois said Rory “has been under psychiatric care since he got there (Russia) and they're starting to shrink him.”
DuBois said, “He's saying things now that he didn't say at the preliminary examination,” when Rory testified that he never saw his mother again after she drove away from Hans's house on Sept. 3, 2006.
After court adjourned for the day, DuBois told reporters Rory's memory has changed and he may have to call an expert in the field to testify about possible reasons for the memory change.
DuBois also criticized Rory's drawings as being “absolutely illogical” and alleged they were the result of being “badgered by people in Russia.”
DuBois said if Reiser had killed his estranged wife he wouldn't have carried her body downstairs into the room where their children were sleeping.
The defense lawyer said, “Why would he do that? It didn't happen.”
— Bay City News