[conspire] Reiser case: prosecution testimony through last week

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Wed Dec 19 00:56:55 PST 2007

Mo 2007-12-10:  Today's first prosecution witness was Oakland mom Clare
Conry-Murray, whose son attended the same Montessori school as the
Reiser kids.  She testified that Hans Reiser had remarked to her and her
husband, at a class party in April 2006, that "his family and Nina
Reiser were a financial burden to him" and his finances would be better
"if he didn't have to take care of them".  Conry-Murray closed with the
now-traditional praise of Nina Reiser's ease around children, opining
that she was a good parent.  Cross-examined by defence attorney William
DuBois, she acknowledged that she'd had no other conversation with Hans,
and couldn't be sure what he meant.

Husband Andrew Conry-Murray followed, and confirmed her account of the
party.  On cross-examination, he agreed that Hans's awkward remark would
be consistent with someone having few social skills -- but stressed the
vehemence of Hans's remark.

Next up was Oakland artist and technical writer Mark McGothigan, who'd
gone to Burning Man with Hans's mother Beverly Palmer.  He testified
that he'd driven Beverly back to Oakland at 2 pm on Tu 2006-09-05.  Hans
had then picked up his mother from McGothigan's house after dark, in her
Honda Civic hybrid.  Hans didn't mention that his estranged wife was
missing, and said only about the Honda CRX that it was "out of
commission" with a possible "electric problem".  

On cross-examination, McGothigan agreed that Hans had a history of
banging up the CRX.  He also said Hans was usually calm and gentle, 
more so than Nina, but tended to fixate on a project at a time, to the
exclusion of social graces.

Nina Reiser's landlord Anthony Britto was next, testifying that he never
received the $2,100 rent cheque found in Nina's van after her
disappearance.  He added that by not giving notice, she'd essentially
forfeited thousands of dollars.  

On cross-examination, Britto said that Nina boyfriend Anthony Zografos
and best friend Ellen Doren had given him the impression that Nina might
come back, and that some of Nina's rent cheques had come from Zografos
or from one-time lover Sean Sturgeon.

Last witness was Montessori teacher Monica MacDonald, who testifed that
then-5-year-old Rory Reiser, in 2004, had been in counseling for "bad
dreams".  There was concern over Rory not "gripping his pencil properly", 
but more over his tendency to draw images of "a lot of guns and a lot of
dead people and violence".  Rory had explained that this is what he'd
seen playing video games with his father.  The pictures were conveyed to
Nina.  The next year, there were several incidents of Rory refusing to
be reined in by teachers, specifically women, saying he didn't need to
listen to them.

MacDonald said that in 2006, Nina had to withdraw the children for
financial reasons.  Before that, however, Hans would often arrive to
pick up the children and make accusations against his wife, that she
was a liar and thief, and had "Munchausen... something".  She opined
that Nina would not have left her children.

On cross-examination, MacDonald agreed that she lacked the expertise to
say whether Rory had been suffering "post-traumatic stress" as she'd
claimed to prosecutor Paul Hora, and admitted that she'd known Hans a
much shorter time than she'd known Nina.  

Tu 2007-12-11:  First up was Nina's bankruptcy attorney Darya Druch,
saying Nina had been seeking a quick Chapter 7 (full) bankruptcy to
escape $83,000 in credit-card debt, before starting her new job with the
city of San Francisco.  Completing that proceeding would have dumped
$75,000 of the credit-card debt onto Hans, $8000 being strictly her
personal debt.  Nina's court filings had attested to $62,740 in assets
including $7000 in a bank account.  She was interested in selling off
her theoretical 50% share in Namesys, Inc., but didn't expect to get

On cross-examination, Druch answered the question of what would happen
if Namesys were found to be worth half a million, by saying Nina would
get half.  Asked how Nina accumulated $7000 cash, Druch said she
understood those to be "gifts", and that nonetheless Nina was running a
monthly "net operating loss" of $916.  She also testified that Nina kept
receiving loans from one-time boyfriend Sean Sturgeon even after
starting to date Zografos in Jan. 2006.

The last witness was Montessori teacher Deserae McClindon, testifying to
Rory's "odd drawings, violent", and that he favoured "black-red",tood
those to be "gifts", and that nonetheless Nina was running a monthly
"net operating loss" of $916.  She also testified that Nina kept
receiving loans from one-time boyfriend Sean Sturgeon even after
starting to date Zografos in Jan. 2006.

The last witness was Montessori teacher Deserae McClindon, testifying to
Rory's "odd drawings, violent", and that he favoured "black-red".
Rory had also told about nightmares concerning wars, leading to a
conference with Nina.  She joined the witnesses describing Nina as a
caring parent who would never leave her children, and described Hans
visiting the school, observing the teaching of his son, and disagreeing
with teachers' assessments of Rory.

On cross-examination, McClindon admitted that she didn't like Hans
showing up and trying to take a part in the nature of Rory's teaching.

We 2006-12-12:  Prosecution's witness for the day was Nina's best friend
and fellow Russian-import bride Ellen Doren, who'd been so notably
hostile to Hans in the pre-trial proceedings.  Doren testified to Nina's
qualities as a caring mother, then answered Hora's questions about
Zografos by calling him "jealous", but that Nina "didn't seem
concerned".  Zografos called Nina very often, knew where she was, and
made frequent use of his ability to check her e-mail.  

Doren denied that Nina was dating any other men while seeing Zografos,
whom Doren described as a doting father to his own children.  Hans she
described as having a marked difference of opinion with Nina on
child-rearing, particularly about violent video games.  She stated that
Nina's largest reason for her credit-card debt problem was continually
paying the Montessori tuition with (joint) credit cards, but was forced
to do so by Hans not complying with child support.  Nina had also
accepted money from her mother and former lover Sean Sturgeon, but Doren
could not say if Zografos provided any.

During Labor Day weekend 2006, Doren said there was to be a handoff of
the children from Nina to Hans at 2 pm, but Nina failed to show up for a
dinner with Doren at 6 pm.  The next school-day, Tu 2006-09-05, Doren
said she picked up the Reiser children at Joaquin Miller Elementary,
called Hans to tell him where the children were, and that Nina was

Doren:  "He said, 'I need to talk to my lawyer.'"
Hora:   "That's it?"
Doren:  "That's it."
Hora:   "Didn't ask how the kids were?" 
Doren:  "No."

Child Protective Services picked up the children after Nina's
disappearance, and Doren eventually became their foster parent, until
December, when Nina's mother Irina Sharanova took them to St.
Petersburg, Russia, against court orders.  

On cross-examination, Doren claimed she knew little about Nina
ex-boyfriend Sean Sturgeon, who'd been "maid of honour" (in drag) at the
Reiser weddiing.  However, she testified to knowledge of Nina's
extramarital affair with Sturgeon that broke up the Reiser marriage, and
admitted that she knew of no other women in Hans's life, by contrast.

DuBois:  "Did Nina ever tell you that she looked on the Net for men to
         have sexual relationships with?"
Doren:   "No."

DuBois tried to question Doren about Zografos's jealousy, but was
blocked by prosecution objections.

DuBois also attempted to corner Doren on conflicting statements to
police and the court on Zografos, prompting new objections on relevance
and giving the witness adequate information.  Some other questions were
blocked as "speculation".  Finally, DuBois got Doren to admit that
Zografos's access to Nina's e-mail was unauthorised, that he'd "decoded"
Nina's passwords, which she said had "upset" Nina -- and that Nina had
responded by getting a new e-mail account, which "upset" Zografos in

On a different topic, DuBois asked Doren if she'd asked Rory Reiser
about his early claim that Nina had hugged him before leaving the Exeter
Drive house on Su 2006-09-03.  She said no.  Asked why, she said she was
"scared about the situation"

Th 2007-12-13:  Next prosecution witness was Exeter Drive house
neighbour and building contractor Jack Strabb, from across the street, 
who'd been out of town Labor Day weekend, returning on Tu 2006-09-05.
10pm, he heard water running at the Reiser house, and observed Hans
Reiser "watering in his driveway" for half an hour.  He found the timing
and the event unusual, as washing the driveway seemed out of character.

Though it was a hot night, Strabb said Hans was dressed for winter,
wearing what looked like "a hooded hunting jacket".  Next morning,
Strabb observed that the driveway was still pretty dirty.  He said he
hadn't noticed the Honda CRX.

On cross-examination, Strabb admitted that he had no idea which day or
days the Reiser driveway had been washed, and had merely seen Hans at
one point holding a hose.  Strabb volunteered that it's possible Hans
was washing down floor mats from the CRX.  

Natalie Potter of the Adventure Time afterschool program at Joaquin
Miller School was next, testifying that Nina had paid $497.52 for six
weeks of the afterschool program, five days before she disappeared.
Hora asked if Nina had ever mentioned planning an extended vacation.
Potter said no. 

Potter testified that Hans had shown up at 5 pm on Tu 2007-12-05, "very
nervous-like".  "There was no eye contact with me whatsoever, just very
hyper. Was not calm at all."  Hans asked to discuss the program's
policies, but said he was _not_ there to pick up the kids.  She asked
him if it was OK if Doren, who had called, picked up the children, and
he'd said yes.  Hans had never followed up with the planned policy

Next was Mary Jo Williams, head of social service agency Bay Area
Community Resources, which had found Nina her new San Francisco job
($50,000 with benefits), testifying to her dynamism and qualifications,
as well as her discussing plans to get certified as an OB/GYN in
California.  She would have started the job Th 2006-09-21.

On cross-examination, DuBois asked if the required fingerprint check
would have caught any prior crminal record.  Williams said it checked
only for California felonies, and admitted that, e.g., child molester
from another state woud not get caught.

Oakland resident Chris Bunn was next up, testifying to the condition
of Nina's 2001 Honda Odyssey minivan, found next to a Fernwood Drive
retaining wall adjoining CA-13 in Montclair, near Bunn's house.  
He'd noticed groceries jumbled around the floor, and the van's presence
for several days.

On cross-examination, Bunn admitted he hadn't called Oakland PD until Sa
2006-09-09.  DuBois asked him if he was familiar with nearby Capricorn
Avenue, to which Bunn said no.  It's possible DuBois was making subtle
reference to the fact that Nina best friend Ellen Doren lives on

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