updated 1/24/2007 4:35:27 PM ET 2007-01-24T21:35:27

Shortly after Nina Reiser disappeared, police found her blood in her estranged husband's home and car. The passenger seat was missing. The floor was soaked with water. And in the back were two true-crime books about murder.

Hans Reiser was quickly questioned, jailed and charged with murdering his wife.

But prosecutors are going to have to prove it without a body, because they have yet to find her remains.

His lawyer already has tried to explain away Nina Reiser's disappearance by suggesting she simply returned to her native Russia or got mixed up with a sadomasochist or the Russian Mafia.

"You can prove the case, but it's a terrific challenge," said E. Michael McCann, the former Milwaukee district attorney who prosecuted Jeffrey Dahmer. He said he remembers about a half-dozen "no-body" homicides during his 38-year career. "A prosecutor's hope is that something will turn up."

Hans Reiser, a 43-year-old Oakland software developer, is being held without bail while a judge decides whether there is enough evidence to try him. A decision is expected next month.

In addition to the blood in his Honda CRX were a roll of trash bags, masking tape, absorbent towels and two books: "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets," by David Simon, about the Baltimore police homicide squad, and "Masterpieces of Murder," by Jonathan Goodman, about notorious murder cases.

Reiser bought the books five days after his wife's disappearance last September, according to police. But prosecutors have noted the books included chapters on how to dispose of a body.

Defense attorney William Du Bois has countered by saying the books contain chapters on how police plant evidence and set up murder scenes.

Bitter custody battle
The Reisers had been married about five years when she filed for divorce in 2004. A bitter custody battle ensued; she was granted a restraining order against him later that year. She also took him to court for not keeping up with child support.

The couple's son, 7-year-old Rory, testified at a preliminary hearing last month that he did not hear his mother and father arguing the day she disappeared, contradicting his earlier statements to police.

Judge Julie Conger said she wanted to ask the boy more questions and ordered him to return to court on Jan. 16, after he and his 5-year-old sister spent the holidays in Russia with their maternal grandmother. But the boy never returned to court, and Conger said he was still in St. Petersburg, where his grandmother has begun custody proceedings.

Du Bois said Nina Reiser inexplicably obtained Russian citizenship for her son two months before she disappeared. She did the same for her daughter two years ago.

"Maybe she was planning to take the kids to Russia and leave her husband here in jail," Du Bois said outside court last week.

‘She’s not alive’
Du Bois also elicited testimony that Nina Reiser dated a sadomasochist after separating from her husband. In addition, the defense attorney suggested she and her family had ties to a Russian spy agency and organized crime.

Prosecutor Greg Dolge said that he has no evidence whatsoever that Nina Reiser is in Russia, and investigators have both her U.S. and Russian passports.

Dolge refused to answer questions about motive and cause of death. But he said he has enough to prove his case without a body.

"She's not alive," he said. "Hans killed her."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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