Programmer and murderer Hans Reiser leads police to wife's remains

Authorities in Oakland, CA are recovering Nina Reiser's remains after the Linux programmer-turned murderer Hans Reiser led police to the burial site just hours ago. Snip from ABC News:

We spoke with the office of Reiser's attorney, William Dubois. They confirmed to us that Dubois and Reiser accompanied police into the park Monday afternoon. ABC News reports Reiser led them to his wife's remains. The body was found in a bag, buried deep in a ravine. The bag was well concealed and could have been easily overlooked. The remains have not yet been exhumed. Present at the scene were Judge Goodman, members of the district attorney's office, Oakland police and Alameda sheriffs.

Hans Reiser leads police to wife's remains
[ ABC News, thanks Jake Appelbaum; image courtesy ABC News. ]

Wired's Threat Level blog has probably been doing the best coverage of this case all along: Hans Reiser Trial Archives [ WIRED Threat Level ]


  1. Seriously. But they’ll cut him one, otherwise he wouldn’t have cooperated. So sad…

  2. FTA: “Reiser’s son testified at the trial that he had a dream that he saw his father carry his mother out of the house in a bag.”

    A *dream*? I guess I missed this from earlier coverage (haven’t been following too closely, I don’t buy in to the tech-celebrity aspect of the trial.)

  3. While I didn’t actually follow this with the fine toothed comb like some people did, I really thought that there was a chance he didn’t do it and his social awkwardness and engineer mindset actually worked against him in the courtoom, pretty much causing him to hang himself while on the stand be he innocent or guilty. This kind of removes any sort of doubt now doesn’t it. He is where he should be. Im kind of relieved that it wasn’t a case of an innocent man who unfortunately isn’t easily understood and thus automatically suspect and “probably the guy” who did it thats going to jail. Growing up the nerd/geek myself, that situation is scary.

  4. @ Themindfantastic –

    Im kind of relieved that it wasn’t a case of an innocent man who unfortunately isn’t easily understood and thus automatically suspect and “probably the guy” who did it….

    If juries are ever outsourced to internet discussion groups, we’re all screwed.

  5. For the purposes of this article, shouldn’t it be “Murderer and programmer”? I mean, the programmer part is kind of secondary at this point.

  6. If juries are ever outsourced to internet discussion groups, we’re all screwed.

    Judge: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, have you reached a verdict?

    Foreman: Yes, Your Honor, we have.

    Judge: I direct the clerk to read the verdict.

    Clerk: We, the jury find the defendant to be a n00b.

    Judge: Very well. It is the judgment of this court that you are sentenced to 15 years of hard pwnage.

  7. In other news, Supreme Court Rules Death Penalty is “Totally Badass”.

    For the purposes of this article, shouldn’t it be “Murderer and programmer”? I mean, the programmer part is kind of secondary at this point.

    At least I’ve used ReiserFS. I’ve never even met his wife. :p

    Besides, can’t he still code while incarcerated? (In between sessions of prison rape.)

    (Seriously though, while his act of murder was terrible, should that mean he has nothing to contribute to the world for the whole rest of his life? Should we deny ourselves whatever good he could still do for us?)

  8. @11, Tekna2007: Man, now you have me thinking of that video “Internet commenter’s business meeting” only with a jury room.
    “That evidence is so photoshoped, I saw it in another case.”

  9. Okay, so the guy’s a murderer and deserves what he gets (and yes, he should get a lesser sentence for allowing the family to have closure), but why do the kids get sentenced to life in Russia? Hardly seems fair.

  10. Does that mean using reiserfs is now a Bad Thing?

    We’re supposed to not like things created by bad people, you know.

  11. Reiser should not get a reduced sentence…maybe the death penalty should be deferred, but no way he should ever be a free citizen, ever again.

    Not only did he murder his wife, lie to his friends & family etc… he subsequently attempted to abuse the judicial system, and nearly got away with THAT too!

    And when his gambit failed? “Oops, my bad, let’s make a deal…”

    The guy is a sociopath, and belongs in prison.

  12. people still love the work of roman polanski (child rapist), evel kneivel (baseball bat beater) or how about ted kennedy (womanslaughterer) or even dick cheney (asshole), no he only maims/shoots people in the face but the others still contribute(d) to society in generally positive (subjective) ways…

    seriously though, whenever these types of cases come up i always think, this time let it NOT be the husband, let truth show that people can act weird and not be guilty but it seems like they always are, i think this is pretty sad.

  13. Yes, the Saturn V is cool. And it has that iconic “rocket” look about it.

    But I can’t think of Alameda county without being reminded of Commander Pavel Chekov wandering around San Francisco trying to find the nuclear “wessels” kept in aforesaid county.

    So this whole news story essentially means nothing to me except, “Hey! Trek Four! That was good stuff!”

  14. people still love the work of roman polanski

    I won’t attend or rent one of his films. Let him surrender to the authorities and we’ll talk. In the interim, I’m certainly not going to contribute to his income. Sadly, I can’t do that with Dick Cheney or the IRS will arrest me.

  15. The guy is a sociopath, and belongs in prison.

    What exactly does prison do that repairs sociopathic behavior?

    To paraphrase Norbert Wiener, people don’t know whether incarceration is meant to segregate, punish, or reform their prisoners, so they do all three badly. The prison system isn’t a solution to much of anything except lining the pockets of prison contractors.

  16. I’m enjoying the subtext here and watching Antinous toe the party line.

    I like to finger the party line. ;)

    “You know, they call them fingers, but I never see them fing.”

  17. Programmer and murderer Hans Reiser

    It’s so terrible, and yet the matter-of-factness of the headline makes me laugh. Are the two roles are on equal footing? Damned programmers and their compilers.

    It’s late, and I’m easily amused.

  18. “Programmer and murderer Hans Reiser” Are the two roles on equal footing?

    He can do both!

  19. It gets interesting if you put an adjective up front, like…

    “Brilliant Programmer and murderer Hans Reiser”
    “Convicted Programmer and murderer Hans Reiser”
    “Open Source Programmer and murderer Hans Reiser”

    Of course there are also jokes, like…

    “When asked about how the murder trial impacted his ability to write self documenting code, Reiser replied, ‘No comment'”

  20. What I don’t understand is why did they strike a deal? It was so obvious anyway that he killed her. I wonder if the deal is for somebody else’s pride to prove the he/she/they are right in convicting him.

    15 years is nothing specially if he will be eligible for parole after 5 years or so (not really sure).

    But I’m quite happy this trial didn’t turn out to be one like OJ.

    Hope he will get some mental treatment right away. Geeks are supposed to be harmless!

  21. Basically, he shouldn’t have been charged with 1st degree anyway. There is absolutely no indication this was premeditated. It has always been clear to me that he had murdered his wife, but 1st degree means something more than what the evidence implied.

    And I really don’t think entering a plea of “not guilty” is abusing the court system. That’s what it’s there for–the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. If he had kept his mouth shut, he would have walked, I think.

    I am almost always happy to see sentences reduced. We have to do something with a guy like this, but he probably poses no threat to society. I believe that holding people for longer and longer, as we have been doing, is unwarranted, expensive, and cruel. I realize I’m in the minority there.

    I think 15 years is plenty in this case.

  22. This entire case seemed to be a sordid look into the lives of very sick and twisted people. Hans ultimately killed Nina, but she was committing adultery with Hans’ best friend. Hans’ best friend admitted to a string of murders. I can’t help but wonder if Hans and Nina knew about that, if Nina was attracted to that kind of individual or what.

    This material, with a little artistic license, could make for a wonderful movie. (sorry for not showing too much sympathy, 6.6 BN people, etc.)

  23. How about the volkswagon beatle (by none other than World famouse murderer and rascist Adolf Hitler)?

    Just because a bad person made somethig doesn’t make the thing bad. Now, if the person was still alive and getting the money that’d be something different.

    @#23, Gainclone: This made me laugh. Thank you. :)

    Where jail works to reform, people who have murdered people and shown no remorse until they are caught do not deserve the right of freedom, to make sure that they will never do it again. No matter how sorry they say they are or are willing to cooperate.

  24. @29/30 —

    Apparently not, because he’s a “linux programmer _turned_ murderer” according to the summary. To be a linux programmer, one must clearly swear an oath to be non-murderous, from which this gentleman has so blatantly transgressed.

  25. @22: The fact that Polanski was able to successfully sue for defamation in England (sort of the Marshall, TX of defamation, due to its plaintiff-favourable laws) whilst avoiding setting foot in the UK to avoid extradition to the US (he testified by a video link) has always struck me as unfair. I was thinking that it would have been fairer to bring back the old Norse legal concept of outlawry (which was the law in pre-Norman England as well), where a fugitive from justice forfeits their rights to protection under the system they are avoiding.

  26. @#38: I think you have Ferdinand Porsche confused with Hitler. Porsche did the actual designing and ran the company, Hitler provided funding and support. After the end of the war, the factory was restored to working order by allied forces.

  27. ACB: Polanski is a fugitive from the American justice system, not the British.

    If he had gone to Britain, and the US authorities had requested extradition, and he had fled back to France, then he would have been a fugitive from the British system.
    But he didn’t, so he wasn’t.

    It’s called “thinking like a lawyer.” :)

  28. @Spazzm: If English law includes extradition to the US, then Polanski is effectively a fugitive from English law. Anything else is sophistry.

  29. @ acb:

    I’m not sure that you’re right about that. Just because England will extradite to the U.S., you assume that not showing up in England to be arrested on behalf of another nation would be a violation of English law.

    You know, to draw a possibly inappropriate comparison, if you’re wanted for a misdemeanor in Texas, and Louisiana detains you and finds out about it, you’re getting shipped back to Lubbock, in spite of the fact that you were never wanted in New Orleans. The NCC might have had you in its database, but there weren’t any APBs out on you.

    I’m betting that if Polanski never went to England, and nobody ever attempted to extradite him, he might be a fugitive from justice in America, but he could hardly be considered a “fugitive from English law.”

    Also, I’m not a lawyer, but I have a feeling that Polanski isn’t considered a fugitive from justice by every country that will ship prisoners off to America. Just a hunch.

    And hey… The Tenant is one of the greatest films ever. Watch it every chance I get.

  30. I do not dispute that Polanski is a great director.

    It just strikes me as unfair that someone (who stands accused of a serious crime) can pick and choose which parts of the legal system he is subject to.

  31. ACB, just FYI, Polanski doesn’t stand accused, he was convicted and then fled before sentencing for fear that the judge, who was a bit of a loon would sentence him to forever. I think there is a new docu about it right now with extensive info from his victim who now actually thinks he should be left alone or something but I’m not totally sure so some fact checking might be necessary.

  32. #30 but can he do both at once? This is important.

    “Crap, I have to start over. Blood on the keyboard AGAIN. *sigh*”

  33. @Talia: All the more reason why his ability to selectively use the English legal system is unjust.

    I think that a neat way of dealing with his fugitive status would be to declare him an outlaw (i.e., a nonperson, incapable of owning property, suing or entering into enforceable contracts) until he gives himself up. I don’t see a problem with this.

    Is the US putting any diplomatic pressure on France to flush him out?

  34. Shouldn’t some bitwise jokes be made right about now?

    Reiser = Programmer & Murderer;
    Nina = Nina &amp 0;

  35. Polanski is safe from extradition in any country that does not have a law similar to the one he violated here. I don’t know what French law is concerning sexual intercourse with thirteen year olds, but something doesn’t match up. Extradition treaties are reciprocal. That’s why American draft evaders were safe from extradition in Canada; no Canadian draft.

  36. @Zuzu #25 :

    What exactly does prison do that repairs sociopathic behavior?

    I never claimed prison rehabilitates murderous sociopaths…lock him up, and throw away the key.

    Allowing Reiser to cut a deal that would set him free, ever, would make a mockery out of the whole judicial system. Let him avoid the death penalty, sure, but he should still serve life in prison.

  37. Oh we have a “draft” Buddy66, it’s just that ours is delicious and spelt “draught”.

  38. I’ll quote wikipedia, which doesn’t seem to be half as wrong as people chiming in on Roman Polanski.

    By all means, I think Polanski has been pretty cracked out since the ‘manson family’ killed sharon tate and their unborn child.


    Polanski was initially charged[12] with rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious act upon a child under 14, and furnishing a controlled substance (methaqualone) to a minor, but these charges were dismissed under the terms of his plea bargain, and he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.[13]

    Following the plea agreement, according to the aforementioned documentary, the court ordered Polanski to report to a state prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation, but granted a stay of ninety days to allow him to complete his current project. Under the terms set by the court, he was permitted to travel abroad.

    Polanski returned to California and reported to Chino State Prison for the evaluation period, and was released after 42 days.

    On February 1, 1978, Polanski fled to London, where he maintained residency. A day later he traveled on to France, where he held citizenship, in order to avoid extradition to the U.S. by Britain. Consistent with its extradition treaty with the United States, France refuses to extradite its own citizens. As a consequence, an extradition request later filed by U.S. officials was denied. The United States government could have requested that Polanski be prosecuted on the California charges by the French authorities,[15] but this option has not been pursued.

    Polanski has never returned to Britain, and later sold his home in absentia. Since the United States could still request the arrest and extradition of Polanski from other countries should he visit them, Polanski has avoided visits to countries that are likely to extradite him (such as Britain) and mostly travels between France and Poland.

  39. @53: The problem is: how does one systematically and accurately distinguish between incurable sociopaths (who should never be released) and reformable offenders, especially if it’s in the former’s interest to be mistaken for the latter?

  40. This was really a dumb move on his part. With the lack of a body and weakness of the physical evidence, many people as well as other inmates would have believed he was innocent if he hadn’t given them the body. He might have even gotten an appeal. Even if it leads to a shorter sentence, the worse treatment and no hope for appeal will make that shorter sentence worse punishment.

  41. I imagine that would be a task for psychologists specializing in such things. That must be a fascinating field.

  42. I wonder what will happen to ReiserFS:

    I hope it will continue to be developed. Perhaps a change of name might be appropriate.

    As for Reiser himself, I think it means a lot that he he did what he did. Being from the UK I’m not a big fan of the death penalty, and everyone should get a second chance – what ever you’ve done.

  43. #57, Working with sociopaths is fascinating; just don’t stand too close. All joking aside, I truly believe that George W. Bush is a low-level sociopath.

  44. Some studies have even demonstrated that as many as 1 in 100 Americans exhibit symptoms of genuine psychopathy. Something to consider before asking for that next raise.

    But yeah, the girl that Polanski allegedly took advantage of has gone on record to say that she believes he was treated unfairly. She still thinks he deserves to be punished, which is odd considering that some people who formerly supported her now think she’s an attention-starved loon.

    Whether Polanski is guilty or not, it’s easy to understand why he might accept a plea bargain for a lesser sentence. Especially if he thought (or had been advised) that the judge was gunning for him. I don’t know all the particulars, but sometimes entering a guilty plea is not the same thing as confessing guilt.

  45. It just strikes me as unfair that someone (who stands accused of a serious crime) can pick and choose which parts of the legal system he is subject to.

    Money makes lots of unfair things possible.

  46. In case anyone wonders: that was not an umbilical eyeball; that was a sockpuppet created by someone who’s been banned under several names.

  47. People saying that we can still use good products made by bad people forget one thing in this case: ReiserFS is a piece of crap.

  48. I knew Hans in college, and it’s disturbing how many people are trying to diagnose him with a psychiatric disorder without having ever met him in any significant way.

    Hans was both wierd and had some obvious personality issues, but he was not sociopathic. And that’s not the kind of thing that develops over time later in life.

  49. the girl that Polanski allegedly took advantage of has gone on record to say that she believes he was treated unfairly.

    For years the media has referred to his crime as ‘statutory rape’ simply because she was underage, a semantic crime in itself. She has said that she repeatedly told him ‘no’ and that she was horrified by the experience. Are we really calling teenage rape victims ‘attention starved loons’?

  50. I never said that you were calling her anything… only that people who have known her have attested that she may be lying. Kind of hard to back out of such a lie, too.

    Plenty of men convicted of rape have been freed following confessions by their supposed victims. Unfortunately, it has taken more than twenty years in at least one case that I know of. I imagine there are many others who’ve served their full, undeserved sentences.

    Also, Polanski never confessed to the crime, and since you don’t know him or the alleged victim personally, I’m not sure that you really have any better an idea of what you’re talking about here than anyone else does. Basically, it’s his word against hers, but if you are suggesting that she couldn’t possibly be attention-starved I will just assume that you have it in for poor Roman.

    I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, though. Let’s say Polanski is guilty. Even if that is the case, I still can’t say for certain, and neither can you. Neither of us know, and yet you presume to have the moral high ground based on your limited knowledge of the events. Good on ya, I guess. You must at least admit the possibility that she lied. Unless you’re God.

    But hey, I partake in all kinds of art created by unsavory characters, fascists and would-be fascists, criminals, killers, rapists, and lunatics. Wouldn’t matter to me in the slightest if Roman Polanski was Adolf Hitler. I don’t judge any work of art on the presumed merits of its creator.

    If I did that, I’d be left with the Care Bears and not much else.

  51. Jeez, Takeshi.

    He copped a plea and then he did a bunk. That doesn’t really reflect well on him. Here are some quotes from the attention-starved loon:

    “Straight up, what he did to me was wrong. But I wish he would return to America so the whole ordeal can be put to rest for both of us.” Furthermore, “I’m sure if he could go back, he wouldn’t do it again. He made a terrible mistake but he’s paid for it”.

    “I think he’s sorry, I think he knows it was wrong. I don’t think he’s a danger to society. I don’t think he needs to be locked up forever and no one has ever come out ever – besides me – and accused him of anything. It was 30 years ago now. It’s an unpleasant memory … (but) I can live with it.”

  52. I cannot defend nor condemn any part of this case on the evidence seen by me. I can however offer observations that might explain circumstances. A few major components of “Geek Syndrome” blessed persons.
    First one is perseverance being an understatement.
    A saintly virtue becoming a literal vice. As a tech problem GRIPS the Ubergeek in tenacious obsessive grip. Even as strong to supplant sexuality or food while searching for that answer. Hold that thought a sec as it’s part of adultery’s root.

    Second is Emotional Dyslexia. Face it- an Ubergeek toggled into problem hound mode loses whatever shreds of human interactive empathy were there to begin with.

    The unholy trinity concludes with overall dissociative fugue when under stress.

    Yep, Hans seems to have had 3 out of 3 against him. Which IMHO perhaps MAY explain a wife seeking love elsewhere. And ugly confrontations with associates to ratchet up the problem solving urgency. The end game of his wife pushing all three buttons at once after the rest of his life has already danced on them – Say pop folks.

    The tragic part to me is less that this one death was not prevented- but it’s fearing there being more. As our tech craving world WILL pressure our
    best and brightest to and beyond their breaking points. I just wish we could have done better as a society! NO- we dare not seek some spurious mitigation based on fame. We do need to urgently review our social failings.

    The ones that seem to doom such as Hans Reiser as sacrificial food for our tech addictions

  53. @#41: My ‘pinion; Ferdinand Porsche should’ve served 15 years for that damned design. Ya’ ever try to sit in the back seat of one of a Beetle and hear anything? How about the window washer running off the spare tire? THE SPARE TIRE!

    No parole for F. Porsche, none at all.

    @#59: “Low level”?

  54. This isn’t newsworthy.

    BoingBoing isn’t a news organization. The symmetry is breathtaking.

  55. “I think he’s sorry, I think he knows it was wrong.”

    Well, yeah… I figured she’d say something like that. Actually, I’m lying. I’ve read plenty about the case, including the quotes you posted. I’m afraid it doesn’t prove anything, and in my view it seems contrived. She doesn’t think he poses a threat to society? Get real.

    Previously in this thread, you referred to Samantha Gailey as a “teenage rape victim.” Polanski was never convicted, and so I would argue that your sentence could be altered .

    “Are we really calling attention starved loons ‘teenage rape victims’?”

    See, to me, this wording makes quite a bit more sense. I’m not saying she’s a terrible person, but if Polanski did nothing, then assuredly your anger is misdirected. You obviously think she’s telling the truth. I obviously do not. One of us is wrong, and has blamed the wrong person. Either way, it doesn’t matter.

    A lot of people think he’s guilty, and I would bet that absconding from justice is what sealed the deal for a lot of them. However, innocent people flee all the time. It doesn’t look good, but in certain situations perhaps it seems like the only option. Anyway, it is no kind of qualitative evidence. Perhaps he’d get an additional charge for interstate flight, but it shouldn’t have any bearing on the case itself.

    But let me ask you: if you were Roman Polanski, and you knew for a fact that you weren’t guilty, but felt that you had practically no chance of evading a prison sentence, would you then at least consider fleeing the country? I think that even the most law-abiding people might be tempted.

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