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Police ID remains as software programmer’s wife

OAKLAND, Calif. – Investigators confirmed Tuesday that a body a prominent software engineer led them to is, in fact, that of the estranged wife he was about to be sentenced for killing, pulling closer together the final pieces of a murder mystery.

Hans Reiser was convicted in April of first-degree murder even though Nina Reiser’s body had not been found. Reiser, 44, showed police the body in exchange for the possibility of a lighter sentence, prosecutor Paul Hora said.

The deal would allow Reiser to plead guilty to second-degree murder, providing for a lighter sentence, but deny him the right to appeal. It still must be approved by a judge and was made with the support of Nina Reiser’s relatives, Hora said.

“Now the family gets to pick the burial site, not the defendant,” Hora said.

Dental records, jewelry and clothing helped confirm the woman’s identity, police said. The cause of her death is still being investigated, they said, declining to give many specifics of what they found when Reiser led them to the body Monday.

But Oakland police Lt. Ersie Joyner III did say evidence from the grave, which was in a ravine in a park not far from Reiser’s house in the Oakland hills, indicates Reiser did not have help. And Hora said the body was in a bag.

The disappearance of Nina Reiser, who was last seen on Labor Day weekend in 2006 when she dropped off the couple’s two children for a visit with their father, had prompted a long and intense search, including the area where the body was found.

But Joyner said the grave was at least 40 yards from any path and probably would never have been found without Reiser’s directions.

Reiser’s defense attorneys did not immediately return messages Tuesday.

At trial, Hans Reiser adamantly denied anything to do with Nina Reiser’s disappearance, and the defense suggested she might have run off to her native Russia.

Prosecutors said that was nonsense, pointing out that traces of her blood were found in his home and car. Witnesses testified she never would have left her children.

Reiser took the stand for several days, giving long, rambling answers and at times getting scolded by the judge for arguing with the prosecutor.

After jurors convicted Reiser, the defense approached prosecutors with an offer, Hora said.

The deal would allow Reiser to plead guilty to the reduced charge in return for showing authorities the body and giving up his right to appeal, Hora said. First-degree murder carries a sentence of 25 years to life, compared with 15 to life for second-degree murder.

That also means Reiser could seek parole sooner.

Sentencing had been scheduled for Wednesday, but Hora said both sides will ask that the hearing be postponed.

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