Hans Reiser refused to help in the search for his estranged wife Nina after she disappeared on Sept. 3, 2006, the man who was dating her at the time testified today.
Taking the witness stand in the trial Hans Reiser, a 43-year-old computer engineer who's accused of murdering Nina, Antonios Zografos said he sent Reiser an email on Sept. 6, 2006, asking for his help in locating Nina, who was lastseen alive when she dropped off the couple's two children at the house on Exeter Drive in Oakland where Reiser lived with his mother.
Zografos, the director of operations for a medical equipment company who started dating Nina in January of 2006, said he told Reiser that it would help if he could get the couple's children to leave a message on Nina's voicemail at her home that they wanted her to come home.
Zografos said he sent Reiser another email on Sept. 8, 2006, offering to have his two children play with Reiser's two kids because they knew each other and he thought it might be a healthy distraction for Reiser's children.
“I never heard anything back,” said Zografos, speaking in an accent that was so heavy that prosecutor Paul Hora and defense attorney William DuBois both said they had a hard time understanding him, as did the court reporter in the case. “I never heard from him.”
Zografos also said Reiser didn't help pass out fliers asking for the public's assistance in locating Nina, who was 31 when she disappeared, and didn't participate in searches for her in the Oakland hills.
Asked by Hora if he got poison oak while handing out fliers and searching in the hills, Zografos said no.
Hora's questions were a reference to testimony by Reiser's mother, Beverly Palmer, on Tuesday that she thinks one reason Reiser didn't participate in the searches for Nina is that he reacts violently to poison oak.
Hans and Nina Reiser married in 1999 but Nina Reiser 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.
Nina Reiser was awarded both legal and primary physical custody of the couple's two children, but Hans Reiser was allowed to have them one weeknight a week and every other weekend.
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.
Zografos testified that he met Nina in the summer of 2005 when he responded to an ad she had placed on a section of Craigslist for single parents who want to find other single parents for mutual activities with their children.
Zografos said their relationship initially revolved around their children's activities but by January of 2006 their relationship turned into a dating relationship.
Zografos said he and Nina were in a “committed” and “serious” relationship and saw each other most days and communicated many times every day via phone conversations and email and text messages.
He testified that he doesn't think she would have vanished voluntarily and abandoned her children.
Zografos said, “Her kids were her life” and described Nina as “a very good mother who was very caring and very loving.”
Zografosis one of a number of witnesses, including Reiser's mother, who have testified that they don't think Nina Reiser would have left her children.
Their testimony refutes speculation by DuBois, Hans Reiser's attorney, that Nina Reiser might still be alive and could be in hiding in Russia, where she was born and where she was trained as a physician.
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.
Zografos said he and his two children spent most of Sept. 2, 2006, with Nina and her two children and he saw her briefly the next morning, just a few hours before she disappeared.
He said he, his children and his wife, from whom he was separated, were on their way to Big Basin Park in the Santa Cruz area for an overnight trip.
Fighting back tears, Zografos said that's the last time he saw Nina.
He said he became concerned the afternoon of Sept. 4 when he couldn't reach her, as they were to meet in Oakland about 5:30 p.m. to have dinner and see a movie.
Zografos said it was unusual for Nina not to keep a date.
“I don't recall a situation where she didn't show up,” he testified.
Zografos said he repeatedly called Nina's home and cell phones and made multiple trips to her house on 49th Street near Broadway in Oakland as well as to Hans Reiser's house on Exeter Drive but there was no sign of her.
The night of Sept. 5, two days after Nina disappeared, Zografos and Ellen Doren, who was Nina's best friend and had been scheduled to meet her the night of Sept. 3, filed a missing persons report with Oakland police, he said.
Hora played for jurors 30 minutes of voicemail messages left on Nina's telephone answering machine.
Ironically, the first message was from Reiser's mother asking Nina to make sure the children's documents were in order for their new school because “I know Hans won't do it.”
Many of the more than 60 messages were frantic calls from Zografos and Doren asking Nina where she was.
In one call, Zografos said, “I'm afraid something is wrong. I hope it's not bad. I'm worried about you.”
In another message, Zografos said, “I've been passing out fliers.
Everybody is worried sick about you.”
DuBois will cross-examine Zografos on Thursday.