California computer whiz Hans Reiser seemed to have it all-a beautiful Russian wife, two children, and a successful career. But the seemingly perfect life hit turbulence when several years into the marriage his wife Nina had an affair with one of his friends. The couple eventually separated and would become embroiled in a nasty custody fight.
Fast forward to September 2006, Labor Day weekend, when Nina dropped the children off at their father's house and mysteriously vanished in the hours that followed. Nina's body has never been found.
Was her husband-or someone else-somehow involved in her disappearance?
Correspondent Maureen Maher reports.
With questions swirling about Nina's 2006 disappearance, Oakland's Assistant Police Chief Howard Jordan sent out an army of investigators to the last place she was seen: the Oakland Hills house where she had dropped off her children.
Technology writer Josh Davis, a 48 Hours consultant, has interviewed Hans several times and says parts of the story just don't add up. "How could a mother suddenly just say, 'Snap, that's it, forget it? I'm taking off?' Unless it was a massive orchestrated disappearance?" he asks.
But that is exactly what some people think-that Nina concocted an elaborate plot to escape to her homeland. Asked if there's a chance that Nina is alive and living in Russia someplace, Davis says, "I think there's a slim chance."
Years before she disappeared, a photograph of Nina in a Russian bride magazine first caught Hans' eye. He quickly got in touch and the two seemingly fell in love. "She called me and said 'I'm going to go to the U.S. to visit Hans and his parents and I don't know how it will work out but I really love him and this is probably the real guy,'" remembers Katia Filippova, who has known Nina since childhood.
Apparently it worked out rather well-within a month of setting foot on U.S. soil, Nina announced she was pregnant with their son Rory.
That raised a red flag with Hans' father, Ramon Reiser. He thinks the pregnancy was planned on her part, and points out that she was an OB/GYN and would have known everything about birth control. He also believes Nina's plan was to get a free ride to America and U.S. citizenship.
Ramon demanded to know more about this new woman from Russia. "So I said, 'What are her strong points?' And he said, 'Well, she's widely read, she's had the discipline to be a doctor, she's fairly quick, but compared to the girls I've known, she's very shallow.' And I said, 'Do not marry her,'" he remembers.
But Hans ignored his father's advice and married Nina in 1999 when she was five months pregnant.
"Hans is an unusual person, there's no doubt about it. When you sit in a room with him, there's a kind of an energy that's both intense and a little off-putting," Davis says.
Nina took it all in stride; after all, Hans was a successful businessman who was building up his computer software company.
In 2002, Hans made over $1 million; his code was so ingenious that even the U.S. Department of Defense was a client. "He got a $600,000 grant from them and that financed him for a while," Davis explains.
With Hans a computer star and Nina studying for her U.S. medical license, the Reisers seemed to have it all. They had a second child, a daughter named Nio.
According to Nina's friend Ellen Doren, Nina was devoted to her children. But Hans' work became his life and now he was the one living in Russia while Nina stayed back in Oakland. "Nina ended up raising the children by herself most of the time here in the States," Ellen says.
And Ellen says Nina felt abandoned.