Hans Reiser looks out at the gallery at his arraignment on murder charges in the disappearance of his estranged wife, Nina Reiser, at Alameda County
Hans Reiser looks out at the gallery at his arraignment on murder charges in the disappearance of his estranged wife, Nina Reiser, at Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2006. (D. Ross Cameron/The Oakland Tribune)
OAKLAND _ Hans Reiser pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murdering his wife, Nina Reiser, and invoked his right for a speedy trial, which will force the district attorney to present its case within weeks.

Reiser, a computer programmer who founded a software company, Namesys, appeared in court shackled and wearing red jail clothes. His mother, Beverly Palmer, and father, Ramon Reiser, watched the brief hearing with no noticeable emotion.

Prosecutors believe Reiser killed his estranged wife on Sept. 3, after she dropped their two children off at his house in Oakland's Montclair neighborhood. At the time the two were in the midst of a contentious divorce during which they had fought over custody of their children, ages 5 and 7.

Nina Reiser's body has not been found, but police believe she is dead. Her tan Honda minivan was found on Sept. 9. It was locked and groceries had been strewn about.

Hans Reiser would not speak to police before his arrest, and police said he tried to ditch them by driving evasively in the weeks after his wife's disappearance.

The Reisers' youngsters are in Alameda County's Child Protective Services, and are allowed regular visits from grandparents. Tuesday Reiser chose to not delay the state's murder case against him any longer, and invoked his right to have a timely preliminary hearing. The hearing _ at which the district attorney presents evidence and a judge rules whether or not the state has a case _ is scheduled for Dec. 11.

Hans Reiser's attorney, William Du Bois, said he agrees with Reiser's decision to push for a fast hearing. Du Bois said he believes the state's evidence is ``somewhat flimsy.'' That evidence, according to court documents, includes DNA collected from blood spatters in Hans Reiser's house and car.

Forensic tests on the samples could not rule Nina Reiser out as its donor.

In addition, police said the couple's son said he overheard his parents arguing on the day Nina Reiser disappeared. The boy, who was playing video games in the basement at the time, said his father told him not to come up from the basement, police said.

But Du Bois has said that prosecuting a murder case without a body is difficult, and doubts the prosecution can prove that Nina Reiser is dead and not just missing.

Ramon Reiser, Hans Reiser's father, took a Greyhound bus from Alabama to Oakland to be in court Tuesday. He would not comment on specifics of the case, but he said he alerted Oakland police in 2001 over concerns he had about Nina Reiser. He would not say what his concerns are. ``There have been things that are obviously strange ... But I don't want to say a lot about that now,'' he said.

Ramon Reiser was contacted by police at his residence in Birmingham, Ala. shortly after his son's arrest on Oct. 10. He said police were courteous, and that he provided them with an interview, but would not say what he was asked.

Ramon Reiser said he has been able to visit with his grandchildren, and knows his son misses them. He said it's been difficult not to be able to spend time with Hans. ``For any parent it's hard not to be with your children. It's hard for me not to get to go to dinner with him, or to go out on walks.''

Nina Reiser's mother Irina Sharanova, and best friend, Ellen Doren, were also in court. Both dabbed their eyes as they watched Hans Reiser address the court.

Nina's boyfriend, Anthony Zografos, said he has lost hope that she will be found alive, and hopes the police have not stopped searching.

``I am very concerned. I am not aware of any efforts to find Nina's body.''

An Education Fund for the Reiser children has been set up. Donations can be sent to 6114 LaSalle Ave. #127, Oakland, CA, 94611. There is a $25,000 reward for information leading to the location of Nina Reiser. Contact Oakland homicide Sgt. Bruce Brock at (510) 238-3821 or a police tip line at (510) 637-0298.

Staff Writer Jason Dearen can be reached at jdearen@angnewspapers.com.