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Reiser's ex-wife portrayed as sadomasochist

Sought 'male companionship' on Craigslist

A lawyer defending the Linux developer Hans Reiser against charges he murdered his wife tried to debunk claims that she was a devoted mother. In court today, he asked questions about personal ads she placed on Craigslist and a sadomasochistic relationship she allegedly had with Reiser's former best friend.

"Did you ever discuss her attempts to find male companions on the Craigslist website?" the attorney asked a witness testifying on behalf of prosecutors. "Did she discuss sadomasochism with you?"

The witness, a woman who volunteered with Nina Reiser at their children's Oakland, California-based pre-school, replied "no" to both questions.

The exchange was part of defense attorneys' strategy to portray Nina as a less-than-dedicated mother who abandoned her two children when she vanished more than a year ago. Prosecutors allege Hans murdered her, following an acrimonious divorce. No body has been recovered, and physical evidence is limited to blood found at his home and inside his car. Defense attorneys maintain Nina, a former Russian mail-order bride, most likely fled to Russia.

Earlier, Marni Hunter, who said she met Nina while the two volunteered at their children's Montessori School, testified the woman was a devoted mother who would never leave her son, now eight, and daughter, now six.

"I really, truly believe that she was a fabulous mom," Hunter told the court on Monday. "She had the most infectious smile. I think she was a very wonderful person, and I think the children loved her dearly."

According to prosecutors, the only logical way to explain Nina's disappearance is that she was killed by her husband, whom she divorced in 2004. To bolster their contention, they sought testimony from a family law attorney who characterized the break-up as acrimonious.

"It went from bad to worse," attorney Shelley Gordon said. "It was very adversarial. It was very hostile, and it just dragged on at a snail's pace."

The couple clashed on a variety of issues, including the $5,400 he was ordered to pay in monthly family support and whether their son should be allowed to play violent video games. In divorce filings, Reiser claimed the games gave him nightmares.

"It was a huge bone of contention, pretty much spanning the whole case," Gordon said.

Stories from Wired, SFGate and InsideBayArea chronicling today's testimony can be found here, here and here respectively. ®

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