Nina had visited the United States as a teenager and had always dreamed of living there. So when Hans Reiser invited her to Oakland, Nina readily agreed. Within a month, she announced she was pregnant.
The news raises a red flag with Hans' father, Ramon, who thinks the pregnancy was planned.
Ramon demands 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.'"
Hans ignores his father and married Nina in 1999, when she was five months pregnant with their son, Rory.
Nina takes it all in stride. Life was good and getting better as Hans' company and his reputation grew. Even the U.S. Department of Defense came calling; Josh Davis says Hans received a $600,000 grant, which financed him for a while.
With Hans a computer star and Nina studying for her U.S. medical license, the couple seemed to have it all. They even had a second child, a daughter named Nio.
But by 2001, after Nio was born, Hans began spending more and more time in Russia building up his business. Nina, meanwhile, was back in Oakland.
Ellen says Nina felt abandoned. "She was very upset and, of course, she would cry sometimes."
"I sent him two books, 'Dummies Guide to Better Communication Between Couples' and 'Dummies Guide to Divorce.' And I said, 'Hans, you're gonna need one of these books. You choose,'" Sean remembers.
Sean says Hans asked him to look after Nina for a while - but "looking after" became something more romantic. Sean admits he made the first pass.
"The thing is, if it was just about sex, I never would've done anything. 'Cause it wasn't about sex at all. I have plenty of sex. I can get sex anywhere, almost any time," he says. "It wasn't that I was just, you know, 'I'm gonna hit on my best friend's wife.'"
Sean says Hans found out about the relationship when they told him.
Not surprisingly, soon afterward, Hans and Nina separated. In 2004, Nina filed for divorce and custody of the children. Hans was crushed.
Hans and Nina were in and out of court, arguing bitterly about how the children were being raised.
Hans withheld child support payments and eventually owed Nina more than $12,000. Then came that Sunday in September 2006, when Nina had made dinner plans with Ellen.
Nina took the children to Hans' house, but what happened next was a mystery.
"I called her every half hour after that. Then at 9:30, her phone went straight into the voice mail," Ellen remembers. "I thought maybe something has happened to her, but I believed she was alive."
Speaking in her native Russian, Ellen left repeated messages for Nina all Sunday night and into Monday, Labor Day 2006. Nina had vanished.