Nina Reiser disappeared after dropping her son Rory and his sister Nio at Hans Reiser's home in Oakland's Montclair District on Sept. 3, 2006. Hans and Nina Reiser were undergoing a bitter divorce at the time of her disappearance. Her body has never been found, despite exhaustive searches in the Oakland hills. Hans Reiser has been in custody on a murder charge since shortly after his estranged wife went missing.
On the stand, Gordon described Reiser as a man unwilling to agree with Nina Reiser on the children's schooling, health care, even the type of video games they played. He also failed to pay a court-ordered $5,400 monthly family support payment for 10 months, Gordon said. The amount was eventually reduced to a flat $15,000 but that money was never paid, she said.
On Aug. 25, 2006 _ about a week before Nina Reiser disappeared _ a trial date for the contempt of court matter was set for Oct. 11, 2006. Hans Reiser was advised that he could go to jail if found in contempt of court, Gordon said. ``Did that Oct. 11 date happen?" Alameda County Prosecutor Paul Hora asked Gordon.
``No. Nina was gone _ disappeared," Gordon said.
Gordon described Hans Reiser as so uncooperative about matters relating to the children
``He simply was not cooperating with anything she wanted to do," Gordon said. ``And some of the suggestions he made were really off the wall."
On schooling, Hans Reiser suggested Rory be home-schooled by a relative, sent to Cairo to study, or ``left alone" to read and then talked to for an hour a day about what he read, Gordon said. Nina Reiser wanted the children to attend public school, be on sports teams, and be regular American kids, she said.
Nina Reiser also didn't want the children to watch violent movies or play violent video games, a point Hans Reiser continually argued. ``Every time they had anything to decide it was a nightmare," Gordon said. Gordon, who said she has handled ``a few hundred divorces" in nearly 15 years of family law practice, called the Reiser divorce the most difficult case.
Hans Reiser's attorney William DuBois has argued that Nina Reiser is a deceptive, manipulative woman who searched for dates on the Craiglist Web site, was into alternative sexual practices and contrived unfounded disabilities and illnesses for her son.
DuBois has made claims that Nina Reiser is living in her native Russia, where Rory, now 8, and his sister, Nio, now 6, have been living with Nina's mother, Irina Sharanova, since last December. The boy was in the United States earlier this month to testify in the murder trial but has since returned to Russia. Because of a lack of time on Monday, DuBois did not have a chance to cross-examine Gordon. That is expected to happen Tuesday when the trial resumes.
Also on Monday, a woman who volunteered with Nina Reiser at their children's preschool testified that Nina Reiser was a dedicated and loving mother who would not abandon her two children.
Marni Hunter said she met Nina Reiser in 2003 at the Grand Lake Montessori School in Oakland where Rory Reiser and Hunter's daughter attended school together. The two worked together to organized classroom parties and projects. ``Nina was a parent volunteer who volunteered readily in the classroom. Her name was constantly showing up on sign-up sheets," said Hunter on the stand in the seventh day of the trial, which could run through February.
Asked if Nina Reiser ever discussed plans to ``abandon her children," Hunter said, ``No."
``I really, truly believe that she was a fabulous mom ... the way her children would run down the hill ... (at the school). She had an infectious smile and she was a kind and loving person. I think her children loved her deeply," Hunter said.
During cross-examination of Hunter, DuBois aimed to debunk Hunter's claims that Nina Reiser was a dedicated mother by raising questions about her alleged mindset about her children and alleged extramarital activities.
``Did you ever discuss the maladies she believed Rory had?" DuBois asked Hunter.
``No," the woman replied. ``Did you ever discuss the disabilities she believed Rory had?" ``No," Hunter said. ``Did you ever discuss her attempts to find male companions on the Craigslist (Web site)?"
``No," she said.
Hunter said her relationship with Nina Reiser was not a social one and discussions were centered only on the children and classroom activities.