OAKLAND, Calif. – A prominent software programmer who had denied having anything to do with his estranged wife’s disappearance even after he was convicted of her murder led police Monday to what is believed to be her body, defense attorneys said.
The abrupt about-face came just two days before 44-year-old Hans Reiser was due in court to face sentencing on a conviction of first-degree murder returned by a jury in April.
The discovery late Monday afternoon came after Reiser, handcuffed to another of his attorneys, William Du Bois, led police through Redwood Regional Park, defense attorney Richard Tamor said.
The body was found in a grave about 4 feet by 4 feet, Tamor said. Reiser did not have difficulty locating the spot, the attorney said: “He went right to it.”
Tamor described Reiser’s demeanor as “pensive, as anybody would be.”
Police confirmed a body had been found but would not speculate on the identity or disclose details of the search.
The ravine where the body was recovered was less than a mile from the house where Hans Reiser lived with his mother. The house is where Nina Reiser, 31, was last seen alive on Sept. 3, 2006, when she dropped off the couple’s two children for a visit with their father.
In the weeks after Nina Reiser’s disappearance, police led cadaver dogs into the same hills where the body was recovered. Volunteers combed the area at the time and posted signs seeking information about the missing woman, who was active in a local Russian Orthodox church.
At the scene where the body was found, helicopters buzzed overhead Monday evening and a small knot of people from the neighborhood stood looking on. Longtime resident Michael Arboleda said the discovery was “shocking, to say the least.”
Neighbors said they were disturbed by the thought that a body had lain in the hills all these months.
“I take my children walking down this path here almost every day,” Arboleda said.
Police guarding the area declined to comment as coroner’s investigators worked at the grave site, which was not visible from the road.
Reiser, known in programming circles for his ReiserFS file system, testified for several days in the six-month trial. He asserted his innocence in often rambling answers and was scolded by the judge for arguing with the prosecutor. He now faces a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.
Defense attorneys argued during the trial that there was no direct evidence linking their client to Nina Reiser’s disappearance and suggested the woman might be living in Europe.
Prosecutors contended the circumstantial evidence against Reiser was strong: The two were involved in a bitter custody dispute, traces of her blood were found in his home and car and witnesses testified she would never have left her children.