Source AP ©

Trial of man charged with killing his Russian-born estranged wife postponed

The trial of a man charged with killing his Russian-born estranged wife was postponed till Tuesday, in a case where authorities must contend with their inability to find the woman's body, leaving them with a largely circumstantial case.

A court official did not give a reason for the delay, and lawyers for both sides were not immediately available for comment Monday.

Attorneys for Hans Reiser argue that authorities have not proven that his missing wife, Nina, is even dead, let alone slain and that she may very well be secretly living in her native Russia.

The challenge facing prosecutors, scheduled to move forward with opening statements Monday, is to build a convincing case out of the DNA and circumstantial evidence, said attorney Ivan Golde, who briefly discussed joining in Reiser's defense but ultimately did not get involved.

"You just start adding up block after block," he said. "At the end of the day, will it be strong enough? You never know how it will play out."

Nina Reiser vanished over the Labor Day weekend in September of last year after going shopping and dropping off her two children at her estranged husband Hans Reiser's house in an Oakland suburb. The couple were fighting over custody of the children.

Her minivan was found six days after she went missing, with her purse and groceries still inside.

Investigators say they found small amounts of blood matching Nina's DNA at Hans' home. They also reported finding her blood in his car, which was missing the front passenger seat and had a floorboard soaked with water when police found it.

Seven-year-old Rory Reiser later told police he never saw his mother leave the house. But during a pretrial hearing, the boy testified that he saw his mother drive away. Jurors are not likely to hear either story since both the boy and his sister are now in Russia with their maternal grandmother, who has begun custody proceedings.

Nina, 31, a trained doctor, and Hans, a 43-year-old software engineer well known in programming circles, had met in Russia and married in 1999. They were separated by 2004 but had never divorced.

During the pretrial hearing, defense attorney William Du Bois suggested that Nina and her family had ties to a Russian spy agency. There was also testimony that Nina had dated a sadomasochist.

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