OAKLAND, Calif. – The sentencing of Hans Reiser is expected to be pushed back after confirmation that a body recovered in the Oakland hills in California is that of his estranged wife, Nina Reiser.
The prosecutor in the case said both sides will ask for a postponement of Wednesday's scheduled sentencing after Hans Reiser led them to the body.
The prominent software engineer was found guilty of first-degree murder in the case in April even though Nina Reiser's body had not been found.
Reiser, 44, showed police the body in exchange for a chance of a lighter sentence, said prosecutor Paul Hora.
The deal, which must still be approved by a judge, was made with the support of Nina Reiser's family. "Ultimately this was done for the family," Hora said.
Police said Nina Reiser's identity was confirmed by dental records, jewelry and clothing. They said the cause of death is still under investigation and declined to give many specifics of what they found when Reiser led them to the body Monday.
But Oakland police Lt. Ersie Joyner III did say evidence from the grave, which was in a ravine in a park not far from Reiser's house in the Oakland hills, indicates Reiser did not have help from anyone else.
The disappearance of Nina Reiser, who was last seen on Labor Day weekend in 2006 when she dropped off the couple's two children for a visit with their father, had prompted a long and intense search, including the area where the body was found.
But Joyner said the grave was in a remote area at least 40 yards from any path and probably would never have been found without Reiser's directions.
At trial, Reiser adamantly denied he had anything to do with Nina Reiser's disappearance, and the defense suggested she might have run away to her native Russia.
Prosecutors said that was nonsense, pointing out that traces of her blood were found in his home and car. Witnesses testified that she would never have left her children.
Reiser took the stand for several days, giving long, rambling answers and at times getting scolded by the judge for arguing with the prosecutor.
After jurors convicted Reiser, the defense approached prosecutors with an offer, Hora said.
If a judge approves, Reiser will be allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder in return for showing authorities the body and giving up his right to appeal, Hora said.
Reiser's defense attorneys did not immediately return messages Tuesday. On Monday, his attorneys declined to comment on whether Reiser had been offered a deal.
First-degree murder carries a sentence of 25 years-to-life, compared to 15 years-to-life for second degree murder. That means Reiser could seek parole sooner, although there is no guarantee he would get it.
Reiser had been scheduled for sentencing Wednesday, but Hora said both sides will ask that the hearing be postponed.
Hora said he spoke to Nina Reiser's mother Tuesday morning. He said he is satisfied with the result of the deal, but "I'm also saddened because the mourning process has begun again."
He saw the discovery of the body as vindication for the family considering the defense trial strategy.
For instance, he noted that there were allegations that Nina Reiser's mother had coached the couple's young son, now 8, on what to say in the courtroom. "He drew a picture of his father walking down the stairs with Nina in a bag," Hora said. "Nina was found in a bag."
The deal means Nina Reiser's family doesn't have to live with uncertainty, Hora said.
"Now the family gets to pick the burial site, not the defendant," the prosecutor said.