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American woman on charges in HK
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 apartment.

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 prosecution said.

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. repairman.

``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 households.'''

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.

Stunned

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.

Estate

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 scheung4@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: September 2, 2005 05:22 EDT

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All information is Copyright 1997 - 2006 'Foreign Prisoner Support Service' unless stated otherwise - Click here for the legal stuff