I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.
It never ceases to amaze me how many men marry a mail-order bride, then are surprised when the marriage doesn’t work out.
Don’t get me wrong, I know there are many mail-order marriages that turn into lifetime relationships filled with love and happiness. As a matter of fact, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service reports eighty percent (80%) of mail-order marriages last longer than the average American union. But the fact is, when these marriages end, they often end in a big way.
In the typical American marriage, a man who kills his wife often does so because she’s taken a new lover and his jealousy turns into murderous rage. While this too is often the case with mail-order marriages, there is most always a second agenda leading to the murder: the feeling of ownership, an attitude of “I bought and paid for you."
The following two stories are about mail-order brides who placed their ads in hopes of escaping their poverty-stricken, suppressed countries in search of a better life. Unfortunately, the escape they were looking for wouldn’t turn out to be quite what they had imagined.
1. Emilita Villa Reeves of Arlington, Texas
Emilita Villa’s father dreamed of a better life for his oldest daughter. He knew there were few opportunities for her in Cebu City in the Philippines and believed the best way to achieve this was by finding her an American husband.
When Korean war veteran, thrice-married, twice-widowed Jack Wayne Reeves saw Emilita’s ad in Cherry Blossoms magazine, he was immediately smitten. Soon after making a trip to meet the young Filipino woman and her family in 1987, the couple was wed and returned to the United States.
Eighteen-year-old Emilita felt a strong obligation to provide for her family back in the Philippines and her American husband was the best way to do so, but she didn’t love him and, truth be told, wasn’t really ready to settle down.
Nonetheless, a few years into the marriage, Emilita discovered she was pregnant. It was no secret that Emilita carried on a multitude of affairs, with both men and women, and Jack insisted the child wasn’t his. He sent Emilita back to her family in the Philippines where she gave birth to a son.
Two years later, Jack called for his bride to come home since, after seeing a photo, he was convinced the young boy actually was his son. Emilita would have much preferred to stay in her native country, but she had to think of her family; so back to Texas she went.
After her return, Emilita began to see more of the “real” Jack than she had seen before the birth of their son, and soon she was convinced he had killed his second and third wives. His second wife, Sharon Reeves, had supposedly committed suicide and the death of his third wife, Korean-born Myong Chong, had been ruled an accidental drowning.
Emilita feared she would face a similar fate if she tried to leave her unhappy marriage. She began discussing these fears with many of her Filipino friends. Eventually these conversations would prove to be the undoing of Jack Reeves.
When Emilita disappeared October 12, 1994, one of these friends reported her missing and relayed her fears to detectives. Initially officers believed the friend was likely being a bit too dramatic; nonetheless police went to the Reeves home for a welfare check.
Initially Jack gave the officers a song and dance about Emilita running off with one of her numerous boyfriends, but the veteran officers immediately sensed the man was lying. They weren’t wrong.
Eventually it was learned the day after Emilita disappeared, Jack had the carpet replaced but not before cutting out large sections of the flooring. Emilita’s Nissan Pathfinder was found in an Arlington store parking lot with the steering wheel and driver’s seat in the wrong positions for a woman of her small stature.
Additionally, receipts would put Jack in the Lake Whitney area on the day Emilita disappeared, despite Jack’s claims he had not been there since Myong’s death. Before long, Emilita’s body would be found there.
Realizing he had killed Emilita, detectives reopened their cases in the deaths of Sharon and Myong. Forensic testing in Sharon’s case resulted in Jack being charged with causing her death.
In 1995, Jack Reeves was sentenced to 35 years in prison after being found guilty of murdering Sharon. A year later, he was convicted of killing Emilita and sentenced to 99 years in prison with a minimum 40 years to be served before parole eligibility.
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With mandates to ease overcrowding in prisons by giving credit for good behavior and the sorts, Jack’s first expected chance at parole will be in February 2026 when he is 85 years old. At the time of this writing, Jack is housed at the Ellis Prison in Huntsville, Texas.
2. Nina Sharanova Reiser of Oakland, California
Hans Thomas Reiser was a whiz kid when it came to computers and their operating systems. Until 2006, he was best known as the creator of ReiserFS computer file system used with Linux. But being a tech genius left Hans little time for a social life. Not that he really had a social personality, anyway.
In 1998, according to Hans, he was working in Saint Petersburg, Russia, when he selected a woman from a mail-order bride catalog and Nina came along as a translator on their first date. Others close to Hans, however, would say it was actually Nina he selected.
Regardless of whether it was direct or indirect, Hans married the Russian gynecologist and she returned to California with him where she began pursuing an American medical degree between giving birth to two children.
Life seemed wonderful for the Reisers, yet it was anything but. Nina discovered her husband was a control-freak and abusive at times. She would also tell friends that Hans was too strict with the children and they often feared their father.
In 2004, Nina had had enough and consoled herself in another man’s arms. Then she filed for divorce. At a temporary custody and support hearing, Nina testified the children barely knew their father because he was out of the country on business so often. As a result, she was granted sole legal and shared physical custody of the children, as well as reimbursement for half of all medical and child care expenses.
Hans was outraged Nina was divorcing him and he was especially angry the Court had given his cheating wife sole decision-making ability with the children and forced him to give her money—even if it was for his children.
The couples’ animosity toward one another reached an all-time high in December 2004 when, according to the petition for a restraining order filed by Nina, Hans pushed her during an exchange of the children. As a result, Hans was ordered to stay at least 100 yards away from his wife and was prohibited from harassing her in person or by phone at home or her place of employment.
By May 2005, Hans had accumulated over $12,000 in arrears on the medical and child care expenses and Nina filed a petition with the Court to force payment. This only enraged Hans that much more.
Hans decided the Court was obviously favoring Nina, and in September 2006, he decided to do something about it.
Several friends were aware that Nina was to drop off the children at their father’s home on the evening of September 5, 2006, and became concerned when she failed to show up for a planned outing. After their phone calls and visits to Nina’s home went unanswered for a few days, the friends reported her missing to police— who, by now, were somewhat familiar with the Reisers.
On September 9, 2006, Nina’s minivan was found parked on Fernwood Drive with groceries still in the rear storage compartment. But Nina was nowhere to be found.
Hans claimed he knew nothing about Nina’s disappearance. Neighbors told officers, however, that Hans was seen washing his driveway for about half an hour on the day of Nina’s disappearance and his car had disappeared the day after, being replaced with his mother’s car.
Detectives were now certain they were dealing with a homicide instead of a missing person and obtained a search warrant for Hans’ home and to collect DNA. Locating Hans’ car, they discovered the passenger side seat had been removed and testing later revealed blood spatter inside; although analysts could not say for certain the blood in fact belonged to Nina.
Regardless, police arrested Hans and charged him with murdering Nina even though her body had yet to be found.
Despite hiring high-profile criminal defense attorneys, Hans was found guilty of first degree murder on April 28, 2008. He was facing life in prison without parole
Using the conviction as leverage, prosecutors offered Hans a deal: provide the location of Nina’s body and the charges will be dropped to second degree murder. Hans accepted and on Monday, July 7, 2008, Nina’s body was uncovered in a shallow grave in the Oakland Hills area.
Hans received a sentence of 15 years to life. In 2009, after being beaten severely by other prisoners, Hans was transferred to California’s Mule Creek State Prison where he remains as of this writing.
In February 2011, Hans filed a petition asking for a new trial claiming his attorney forced him to take the plea offer. A ruling on his petition has not been made at this time.
© 2016 Kim Bryan