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Hans Thomas REISER





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: September 3, 2006
Date of arrest: October 10, 2006
Date of birth: December 19, 1963
Victim profile: Nina Reiser (his wife)
Method of murder: ???
Location: Contra Costa County, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to 15 years to life on August 29, 2008

Hans Thomas Reiser (born 19 December 1963) is an American computer programmer, owner of Namesys, and the primary developer of the ReiserFS and Reiser4 computer filesystems.

On 28 April 2008, Reiser was convicted of the first degree murder of his wife, Nina Reiser, who disappeared in 2006. On 29 August 2008, Reiser pled guilty to a reduced charge of second degree murder, as part of a settlement agreement that included identifying the location of Nina Reiser's body.

Childhood, education and early career

Hans Reiser was born to Ramon Reiser and Beverly Palmer on 19 December 1963. He grew up in California and dropped out of junior high school before he was 14, citing disagreements with the conventional schooling system. He was accepted at the University of California, Berkeley at the age of 15, which he attended off and on until he received a BA in Systematizing (an individualized major dealing with physics, math and related topics) in 1992, at the age of 28.

Reiser was also one of the founding members of the Open Computing Facility at UC Berkeley. Though preferring higher education, Reiser chose not to pursue a Ph.D., citing the same reasons he had dropped out of junior high school. Choosing not to pursue a further career in academia, he worked part-to full-time in the computer field while founding and building the California-based international software company Namesys Inc. Prior to founding Namesys, Reiser held positions at Synopsys, IBM Research, Premos, and ARDC.

Namesys and ReiserFS

Reiser and his company Namesys developed the journaled computer file systems ReiserFS and Reiser4. ReiserFS has been available in the Linux operating system since version 2.4.1 and has at times been the default filesystem on several Linux distributions including, until 2006, Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise.

Following Reiser's 2006 arrest on suspicion of murder, people in the free software community expressed concern over the future of Reiser's filesystem (Reiser4). However, after his conviction, Jonathan Corbet, editor of, argued that the immaturity of Reiser4's feature set and Reiser's extensive combative relationship with the community meant the filesystem's future had been limited in any event.

Shortly after Reiser's arrest, the employees of Namesys stated they would continue to work, that the arrest had no immediate effect on the rate of the software's development, and if the case expanded over a longer time they would seek solutions to ensure the long-term future of the company.

On 21 December 2006, Hans Reiser announced he was selling the company to raise money for his increasing legal fees. As of January 2008, the commercial activity of the company ceased (according to an interview with employee Edward Shishkin) but it had not been sold.

Marriage to Nina Reiser

In 1998, while working in Russia, Hans Reiser reportedly selected from a mail-order bride catalogue, and subsequently married, Nina Sharanova (Нина Шаранова), a Russian-born and trained obstetrician and gynecologist who was studying to become an American licensed OB/GYN. Reiser himself stated that he met Nina when he went to a date set up by a Russian dating service; Nina had come along to translate for his date. They had two children.

The Reisers separated in May 2004. Nina Reiser filed for divorce three months later, citing irreconcilable differences and saying that their children “hardly know their father” because he was out of the country on business for most of the year, according to court records, and was granted sole legal custody of the children and shared physical custody of them with her husband. The divorce was never finalized.

Nina Reiser obtained a temporary restraining order against Hans in December 2004 after he allegedly pushed her, at the height of the divorce proceedings. She dropped the temporary restraining order in late 2005 because the heat of the divorce had chilled over time.

In exchange, Hans Reiser agreed to be bound by a one year civil restraining order which prohibited him from “contacting, harassing or disturbing the peace” of Nina Reiser at her home or place of work and ordered him to stay at least 100 yards (91 m) away from her. In May, Nina Reiser alleged in court filings that her husband had failed to pay 50 percent medical expenses and childcare expenses as ordered by a judge.

Nina Reiser's disappearance

Nina Reiser was reported missing on 5 September 2006. She had last been seen on 3 September, when she dropped the couple’s two children off with Hans, at his mother's house where he was living at the time. She also failed to meet her best friend at her house later that evening.

Nina Reiser's 2001 Honda Odyssey minivan, with groceries inside, was found on 9 September on Fernwood Drive in Oakland's Montclair district, just east of the SR 13 Warren Freeway. It was reported by police that neighbors first spotted the parked minivan on 5 September, the day she was supposed to pick up her children at school.

Hans Reiser's neighbors said that they saw him spraying water off something in the driveway for half an hour shortly after Nina went missing and said that his car — a 1988 Honda CRX Si hatchback — disappeared shortly after, and his mother rented a car so Hans could drive hers. Police brought cadaver dogs in to search his property, but no human remains were found.

Following Nina Reiser’s disappearance, which resulted in the removal of the Reiser children from the Reiser family, Hans Reiser attempted to obtain custody but was unsuccessful. Oakland police testified against Hans Reiser at the custody hearing, though they did not reveal the evidence on which they based their concerns.

Murder investigation

In September 2006, Oakland police briefly detained Hans Reiser, served him with a search warrant on his person, and obtained a DNA sample.

On 10 October 2006, following the second search of his home, Oakland police and FBI investigators removed a number of items. Police announced that they were now treating the disappearance as a homicide case, and Reiser was arrested for the murder of Nina Reiser and subsequently charged.

On 11 October 2006, law enforcement officials said that splatters of blood had been found in Hans Reiser's house and car. Forensic testing (including DNA analysis) could neither confirm nor rule out Nina Reiser as the source of the blood. Officials had not located the passenger seat of his 1988 Honda CRX Si hatchback which was missing.

They also indicated that they had found in the car two books on homicide investigation purchased by Reiser on September 8 — five days after his wife’s disappearance: Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, by David Simon, and Masterpieces of Murder, by Jonathan Goodman. Daniel Horowitz, a high-profile defense attorney, joined the defense team but dropped the case on 28 November, citing Reiser's inability to pay for his services. Namesys's employees state that Reiser felt the police would suspect him from the start. Reiser was arraigned on Thursday, 12 October, where he delayed entering a plea until his next court appearance on 28 November.

He was held without bail. On 28 November, Reiser entered a not guilty plea and invoked his right for a speedy trial, forcing the state to schedule a preliminary hearing for 11 December.

On 2 December, at the request of the Oakland police, search and rescue teams combed an area less than three miles (5 km) from Hans Reiser's house, but no new major findings were immediately announced.

Trial and conviction

Preliminary hearing

Forensic evidence

The preliminary hearing opened on 11 December 2006, with Reiser being represented by attorney William Du Bois. At the hearing, a forensic technician testified that blood matching Nina Reiser's DNA had been found on a bag in Hans Reiser's car, and on a pillar in Beverly Palmer's house, where he had been living since the separation. However, it emerged that a mistake had been made when the police analysed the blood on the pillar, rendering the evidence inconclusive.

Police also testified that they had found a 40-piece socket set which may have been used to remove the passenger seat, a receipt for the purchase of the socket set from Kragen Auto Parts, four seat bolts, and a wrench with a socket in it, suggesting that the seat may have been removed recently. (Confirming this theory, a traffic officer who had pulled Reiser over nine days after Reiser's wife went missing, testified later in the trial that the passenger seat had been present at the time, and that he had not seen any blood.)

Police surveillance testimony

During the third day of the preliminary hearing, on December 16, 2006, Officer Gino Guerrero stated that Reiser had engaged in a lengthy cat-and-mouse game with surveillance officers who were trailing him on the evening of September 18, 2006. When Reiser left family court at 600 Washington Street in Oakland in the afternoon of September 18, he was trailed by police officers using both cars and an airplane. According to a probable cause statement, Reiser and a male friend "appeared to be conducting counter surveillance" to avoid police by driving at varying speeds, turning down small residential streets and making abrupt stops.

Reiser and his friend eventually dined at Fonda restaurant on Solano Avenue in Albany and afterwards the friend dropped Reiser at the corner of San Pablo and Ashby avenues in Berkeley. Guerrero said that Reiser walked around the area furtively, stopping occasionally to look in all directions, and eventually got into a 1988 Honda CRX which was parked on Acton Street near Carleton Street.

Guerrero said police then followed Reiser as he drove the car to 2425 Monterey Road in Oakland, less than three miles (5 km) away from where Reiser was living with his mother.

Reiser's mother, Beverly Palmer, testified that she had been out of town the weekend Nina Reiser disappeared and was surprised to learn that her son was driving her car, a 2003 Honda Hybrid, and that his Honda CRX wasn't at the house. Palmer said that when she asked her son where the CRX was, he said it wasn't working and "he'd take care of it and I should never mind."

Reiser's son fails to testify

On 17 January 2007, the Reisers' seven-year-old son was scheduled to testify, but failed to appear. Judge Julie Conger asked that their son return to court and clarify his testimony, but he never did because his maternal grandmother failed to bring the children back from Russia as promised.

She had since begun Russian court custody proceedings. It was originally thought that Reiser's son would not return to testify in his father's trial; however, in a surprising move by Alameda County District Attorney Paul Hora, the son arrived from Russia to testify before Judge Larry Goodman.

Prosecutor Greg Dolge stated that he spoke to the grandmother and that Reiser's son was under the care of a therapist in Russia who wanted him to stay in Russia for further treatment. It was also revealed that Nina Reiser obtained Russian citizenship for her daughter and son 2 years and 2 months, respectively, before she disappeared.

Closing arguments

Initially, Judge Julie Conger said that on February 23, she would hold closing arguments and rule on whether there was enough evidence to order Hans Reiser to stand trial.

On 22 February 2007, the closing arguments were postponed until 9 March because Reiser's attorney was involved with another unrelated trial that was running longer than expected.

On 9 March, the judge ruled that Reiser would stand trial and set Reiser's arraignment for 23 March.

Reiser pleads not guilty

On 23 March 2007, Reiser pled not guilty before Judge C. Don Clay.

On 11 June, Reiser's trial was assigned to Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman, who had presided over a number of murder and death penalty cases, including the trial of Alex DeMolle.

Hearings on pretrial motions

On 23 July 2007, hearings on pretrial motions began. Potential jurors were brought to court on 29 August, 30 August, and 4 September to fill out questionnaires, but prospective jurors weren't questioned until 30 September 2007.

Opening statements were expected to begin on 29 October 2007; however, they were postponed, and rescheduled for 5 November 2007. The defense stated that the delay was due to possible prejudicial information in a television segment about the case to be aired 2 November. The prosecutor stated the delay was necessary as more time was needed for additional pretrial motions.

Trial and Verdict

Hans Reiser's murder trial began on 6 November 2007 with opening statements from prosecutor Paul Hora.

After three days of trial, the prosecutor concluded his opening statements urging jurors to convict Hans Reiser for murdering his wife.

In his closing argument, Reiser's attorney, William DuBois, urged the jury to consider a sentence of voluntary manslaughter if they believed that Nina was dead and that Hans Reiser killed her in a moment of passion.

On Monday, 28 April 2008, Hans Reiser was found guilty of first degree murder.

Recovery of Nina's body and sentencing

According to officials, prosecutors agreed to a deal whereby Reiser would reveal the location of his wife's body in exchange for pleading guilty to second-degree murder. The deal was made with the agreement of Nina's family, but was subject to final approval by Judge Goodman.

On Monday, 7 July 2008, Reiser led police to Nina's body buried in the Oakland hills. Reiser's attorney, William DuBois, who was handcuffed to Reiser and accompanied by a heavy police guard to the site, said that the remains were found buried on the side of a hill between Redwood Regional Park and the Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, less than half a mile (< 800 m) from the home on Exeter Drive where Reiser lived with his mother, and where Nina Reiser was last seen alive on 3 September 2006.

Oakland homicide detective Lt. Ersie Joyner recalled that Reiser led them directly to the exact site, without any hesitation or confusion. Reiser said he hoped a cherry tree would be planted to mark the grave site. On 8 July, the coroner positively identified the skeletal remains as those of Nina Reiser.

On 29 August 2008, Reiser was sentenced with 15 years to life in accordance with the charge of second-degree murder. Reiser cannot appeal his conviction or sentence as a result of his plea bargain. On 5 September 2008, Hans Reiser arrived at San Quentin State Prison to begin serving his sentence.

On 30 October 2008 Hans Reiser tried to appeal his second-degree murder conviction. The request was denied by Judge Larry Goodman on 13 November 2008.

On 10 January 2009 it was reported that Hans Reiser is recovering after having been beaten up by several prisoners.

By 4 March 2009 he has been transferred to Mule Creek State Prison.


The victim, Nina Reiser.


Hans Thomas Reiser



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