HELEN LUK Thu Sep 1,2005
HONG KONG (AP) - A Hong Kong jury Thursday convicted an American woman of
murdering her wealthy investment banker husband by drugging him with a
milkshake laced with sedatives and beating him to death in their luxury
Nancy Kissel - dressed in black, as she has been throughout the sensational
trial - was expressionless as the seven-member jury returned the verdict in
the November 2003 death of her husband, Robert, of New York.
She received a mandatory life sentence. Defence lawyer Alexander King, who
argued that his client killed her husband in self-defence and was the
victim of abusive sex, refused to say whether she would appeal.
The verdict in what became known as the "Milkshake Murder" trial came after
dozens of witnesses spent nearly three months testifying in one of Hong
Kong's longest and most high-profile murder trials. The often lurid
testimony about sex, adultery, cocaine and money gave the public a rare
peek inside the private life of a wealthy foreign couple.
Robert Kissel's father, William, said he was thrilled by the verdict.
"It's a 65-day trial and it's unanimous. That's justice," he said.
"All the allegations made in the court (about Robert) are false, untrue,"
William Kissel added. "And Robert, I pray, can now rest in peace and his
children can go on with their lives in peace knowing their father loved
them and they are his dear children."
Nancy Kissel's mother, Jean McGlothlin, said: "Right now, I'm just going to
try and get by."
The prosecution portrayed the 41-year-old defendant as a cold-blooded
killer who murdered her husband - a top investment banker at Merrill Lynch
- as he prepared to divorce her and seek custody of their three children.
Robert Kissel, 40, was furious that his wife had an affair with a repairman
who lived in a trailer park near the couple's vacation home in Vermont, the
But the defence argued that the husband was an abusive workaholic who
snorted cocaine and often forcefully sodomized his wife, driving her to
seek comfort from a lover. It said Nancy Kissel, who was born in Adrian,
Mich., and also lived in Minneapolis, killed her husband in self-defence as
he was attacking her with a baseball bat during an argument.
The prosecution said she tried to cover up the crime by rolling up her
husband's body in a rug and having it hauled away to a storage locker
rented by the couple.
Nancy Kissel testified that she couldn't clearly remember what happened
following her husband's death. Investigators found his body in the storage
locker two days after the killing.
Nancy Kissel May Appeal Verdict in Trial That Shocked Hong Kong
Sept. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Nancy Kissel, sentenced to life in prison after
being convicted of murdering her Merrill Lynch & Co. investment banker
husband, may appeal the verdict, her Hong Kong lawyer said.
``There is an appeal under discussion,'' Alexander King said today, outside
the city's High Court.
Kissel killed her 40-year-old millionaire husband and hid his body in a
roll of carpet in a storeroom in their luxury apartment block. A jury found
her guilty of murder after a 66-day hearing that captivated Hong Kong's
media with tales of drug taking, violent sex and affairs.
The defense argued the 41-year-old American was a battered wife, regularly
beaten and sexually assaulted by her cocaine- addicted spouse. The
prosecution said she planned the killing -- clubbing Robert Kissel to death
with a metal ornament after sedating him -- because he demanded a divorce
and custody of the couple's three children over her affair with a T.V.
``People were traumatized by the case,'' said Cathy Tsang- Feign, a Hong
Kong psychologist whose practice focuses on expatriates. ``People came in
to talk about it. It magnified the problems that exist in expatriate
The high-profile case captivated the media in the Chinese city of 6.9
million people, where 29,900 U.S. citizens make up a sizable portion of the
wealthy expatriate community. The English- language South China Morning
Post and the tabloid Standard both devoted four pages to the case today,
including photographs of the couple with former President George Bush.
Tai Lam Women's Prison
Judge Michael Lunn today ruled against a prosecution bid to have some of
its costs for the trial paid for by the defense.
Pending an appeal, Kissel will be interned in Tai Lam Institute for Women,
one of five women's prisons in Hong Kong, where she will be one of about
230 inmates in the system who aren't citizens of Hong Kong or China,
according to Hong Kong's Correctional Services Department.
Without an appeal Kissel's life term would be reviewed in five years, and
thereafter every two years, by a government board that can recommend to the
city's chief executive that her sentence be commuted to a fixed term, and
she can then seek early release after serving two-thirds of that term,
according to Hong Kong's Security Bureau.
Alternatively, after completing any appeal, Kissel could seek a transfer to
a federal prison in the U.S., where she would be eligible for parole after
a decade behind bars, according to information from the U.S. Consulate in
Hong Kong and the U.S. Department of Justice Web site.
Life of Luxury
Life in a Hong Kong prison -- where she will be expected to work in one of
14 jobs such as carpentry or printing -- will be very different to that in
Hong Kong Parkview, a hilltop luxury apartment complex near one of the
city's country parks.
Living in Parkview, where rents start at more than $7,000 a month, Kissel
had her own photography business and a string of volunteer activities,
including work for Hong Kong International School, the $15,000-a-year
school two of the couple's three children attended.
That lifestyle was funded by Robert Kissel's investment banking career.
Educated at the University of Rochester's College of Engineering and New
York University, he worked for Lazard Freres & Co. from 1992 to 1997,
before moving to Hong Kong with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in 1998, heading
its distressed asset business in the wake of the Asian crisis. He moved to
Merrill Lynch in 2000.
His death, discovered after a colleague filed a missing person's report,
stunned the city's investment banking community and highlighted issues
faced by many of the city's high-flying residents.
``The expatriate lifestyle doesn't leave much time for people to sit down
and discuss problems,'' said Tsang-Feign. ``Things can get out of hand.''
Tsang-Feign is the author of ``Living Abroad: How to Keep Your Family,
Career and Life Together.''
Nancy Kissel's journey to a Hong Kong prison began in early 2003, when she,
her two daughters and her son left Hong Kong to escape an epidemic of
severe acute respiratory syndrome. Vacationing with her children at the
couple's holiday home in Vermont, she began an affair with television
repairman Michael del Priore, who lived in a nearby trailer park.
In court, Kissel admitted the affair and said she remained in contact with
del Priore on her return to Hong Kong, both before and after the murder.
On the stand, she painted a portrait of her husband as a cocaine-addicted
tyrant who hit her and forced her to have anal sex. The defense also
produced evidence that gay pornography had been accessed on computers to
which Robert Kissel had access.
In the trial's biggest revelation, Kissel who pleaded not guilty, admitted
to the court she killed her husband but said it was self defense.
The prosecution pointed to the value of Robert Kissel's $18 million estate,
made up of stocks, life insurance polices, cash and real estate, according
to Jane Clayton, Robert Kissel's younger sister, who gave evidence in June
as a prosecution witness. Nancy Kissel was the beneficiary of Robert
Kissel's will and life insurance policies, prosecution evidence showed.
Prosecutor Peter Chapman said Kissel searched the Internet for ``overdose
on sleeping pills'' in late August 2003 and stocked up on drugs a week
before she allegedly laced a milkshake with sedatives on Nov. 2, 2003, the
day of the murder.
She had one of her daughters deliver the milkshake to her husband, who had
for two months suspected her of trying to poison him, the prosecutor said.
Four of the six drugs found in Robert Kissel's stomach contents after he
died were prescribed to Nancy Kissel by two doctors, the prosecutor said.
Kissel has 28 days in which to appeal the verdict.
``It's like a 1930s American film noir,'' said Tim Hamlett, associate
professor of journalism at the Hong Kong Baptist University. ``The wealthy
banker, the bored wife having an affair with the repairman.''
To contact the reporter on this story:
Clare Cheung in Hong Kong at email@example.com.
Last Updated: September 2, 2005 05:22 EDT