The Nancy Kissel murder case (officially
called the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region v. Nancy Ann
Kissel) was a highly publicized criminal trial held in the
High Court of Hong Kong, where Nancy Kissel was convicted of the
murder of her husband, investment banker Robert, in their apartment on
November 2, 2003.
The case was known as the "milkshake murder"
because Kissel was alleged to have incapacitated her husband by
serving him a strawberry milkshake full of sedatives before
bludgeoning him to death.
It was the highest profile murder of an expatriate
in Hong Kong's history, and the court hearing was packed. Kissel was
at first convicted of murder in 2005 and was handed a mandatory life
sentence. The Court of Final Appeal overturned the conviction in
February 2010, citing legal errors, and ordered a retrial that began
on January 12, 2011. On March 25, 2011, she was again found guilty of
her husband's murder by a nine-member jury and sentenced to life in
Robert and Nancy Kissel married in New York in 1989
where Alison Gertz was her maid of honor. The couple arrived in Hong
Kong in 1997 with their three children and resided at the Hong Kong
Parkview. The children attended Hong Kong International School.
Robert was a vice president in Goldman Sachs' Asian
special situations group. Merrill Lynch hired him from Goldman in 2000
to head its distressed assets business in Asia outside Japan.
On a return trip to the United States in mid 2003,
Nancy met and had an affair with Michael Del Priore, the twice-married
electrical repairman who had rewired the Kissel home in Vermont. They
remained in frequent telephone communication during the days and
months prior to and immediately following the murder.
Robert was suspicious of Nancy's infidelity and had
hired New York private detective Frank Shea, president of Alpha Group
Investigations based in New York and Boca Raton, Florida, to spy on
his wife, and also secretly installed spyware on her computer. She
claims to have had some violent disagreements with her husband, and
says that her husband claimed to have initiated proceedings for
divorce and for the custody of their children.
Nancy allegedly drugged her husband by having their
six-year-old daughter give him a strawberry milkshake laced with a
cocktail of sedatives. When it had taken effect and the children were
out of the apartment, she bludgeoned him to death. She then rolled up
his body in a carpet and had it placed in their storeroom in the
After her arrest, Nancy admitted to killing her
husband in self-defense, claiming that she had been in an unhappy
marriage and was the victim of domestic violence. She claimed her
husband had subjected her to rape and sodomy over a five-year period.
She attempted to portray Robert as a work-crazed and controlling
husband who had succumbed to habitual and regular cocaine and alcohol
The trial began in June 2005 at Hong Kong's High
Court with the prosecution alleging that she murdered her husband and
she pleading not guilty. She admitted under cross examination that she
had bludgeoned her husband to death, but claimed it was in
self-defense after an argument about divorce had escalated, leading
him to sexually attack her, and then, when she resisted, to swing at
her with a baseball bat.
She claimed memory loss, testifying she had no
knowledge of how she inflicted five head wounds with a heavy metal
sculpture. She admitted to using Stilnox, one of the sedatives found
in her husband's body, to doctor a bottle of whiskey when they were
living in Vermont in the hope that it would make her husband less
aggressive toward their children, but she admitted it had had no
effect on him. Regardless of that, she admitted to trying the same
thing in Hong Kong but testified that when she saw the sediment it
left at the bottom of the bottle, she poured out the drugged liquor,
bought a new bottle and used it to partially fill up the old one, and
then "never thought about it again".
The Kissels' neighbor, Andrew Tanzer, testified he
had become drowsy and then unconscious after sampling the strawberry
milkshake. Kissel admitted making it for one of her children and a
visiting child, but denied drugging it, stating she would never harm
her children or anyone else's.
The case against Nancy Kissel was brought before
Justice Michael Lunn. At the end of the trial, lasting 65 days, the
jury of five men and two women decided on her guilt unanimously after
eight hours of deliberation.
On September 1, 2005, Nancy Kissel was found guilty
by the jury and sentenced to life in prison. She appealed her
conviction, and in April 2008 returned to court, the appeal was
rejected. Kissel then lodged an appeal with the Court of Final Appeal
of Hong Kong on 12 January 2010. The case was before a five-judge
panel led by then-Chief Justice Andrew Li, on January 21. The defense
argued that the prosecution had improperly used evidence, including
hearsay, and that the original jury instructions were problematic.
On February 11, 2010, the Court of Final Appeal
quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial, citing prosecution use
of inadmissible evidence. Kissel was permitted to seek bail, but
ultimately chose not to apply.
Kissel was re-indicted on a single count of murder
on March 2, 2010, with the retrial due to start on January 10, 2011.
According to the defense, Robert Kissel told his
wife on the night of November 2, 2003, that he was filing for divorce,
saying that the decision was final, and that she was unfit to care for
her children. Defense also alleged she had long suffered from
provocation, physical and sexual abuse long before that night. Nancy
Kissel pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty to manslaughter on the
basis of diminished responsibility and provocation. Kissel admitted to
having an extramarital relationship with a TV repairman, and
prosecution alleged that she planned to run away with her lover in the
United States after her husband's death, and that she stood to inherit
her husband's estate worth US $18 million.
On March 25, 2011, after hearing evidence from over
50 prosecution and defense witnesses over ten weeks, the jury of seven
women and two men unanimously found Kissel guilty as charged. She was
sentenced to life imprisonment.
Nancy Kissel: The Hong Kong Milkshake Murder
By Anthony Bruno
The Corpse in the Rug
It was almost midnight on Nov. 6, 2003, when Hong
Kong police investigators, armed with a search warrant, entered a
storage room at the exclusive Parkview high-rise apartment complex.
They immediately found what they were looking for behind the door—a
rolled oriental rug tied with rope and bound with clear adhesive tape.
A pillow and a bag filled with bed sheets and clothing were on top of
the rug. The rug seemed suspiciously bulky, and when the investigators
unrolled it, they found what they expected—a body.
The corpse had been sealed tight in plastic wrap,
the head covered with a black plastic bag. The entire body had then
been placed inside a large white plastic bag and bound with red
adhesive tape. It was then rolled into the rug. The investigators knew
instantly that the victim had been dead for some time; the smell of
decay was too powerful for this to have been a recent death.
Their search had been prompted by calls from David
Noh, a vice president at the Hong Kong office of Merrill Lynch. His
colleague and close friend, Robert Kissel, the head of the company's
distressed asset business in Asia, had been not been heard from in
four days. A friend of Kissel's, Bryna O'Shea, had called several Hong
Kong hotels, looking for Kissel. He had been having marital problems,
so it was possible that he had moved out of his apartment. But O'Shea
had been unable to locate Kissel, so she told Noh, who then called the
police, fearing that something was wrong.
Kissel, a high-flying investment banker, was a
prominent member of the American expatriate community in Hong Kong.
The report of his disappearance triggered an all-out search for him.
Within hours of Noh's call, police investigators went to his Parkview
apartment to interview his wife, Nancy Kissel. They questioned her
about her husband's whereabouts and asked about a police report she
had filed that morning in which she stated that her husband had
assaulted her over the previous weekend after she refused to have sex
with him. She said nothing about having a storeroom in another
building of the complex.
That evening the police interviewed maintenance men
at the apartment complex and learned that Nancy Kissel had called the
management office the day before to have a rug moved to her storeroom.
The workers who moved the rug told the police that it was unusually
heavy and that it had taken four of them to move it. The police
immediately requested a search warrant to enter the Kissels'
Two hours after finding Robert Kissel's body,
police arrested Nancy Kissel at 2:41 AM on Friday, November 7, 2003.
She was charged with the murder of her husband.
Police pathologists examined Robert Kissel's body
and determined that he'd been struck five times in the head with a
blunt instrument. Tests revealed the presence of six prescription
medications in Kissel's stomach, including the sedative Rohypnol,
better known as the "date rape drug." Five of these drugs had been
prescribed to Nancy Kissel by two different doctors in the months
before her husband's death.
Nancy Kissel, who had three children with Robert
Kissel and who was the sole beneficiary to his $18 million estate,
maintained her innocence.
The Tai Tai
Nancy and Robert Kissel started dating in 1987 and
were married in 1989 after living together for two years. While Robert
attended New York University full-time pursuing his master's degree in
finance, Nancy, who was born in Michigan and raised in Minnesota,
worked three jobs in the catering industry in Manhattan to support
them. According to her own testimony, Nancy, who holds a bachelor's
degree in business and a master's in design, sidetracked her own
career goals to help her husband further his ambitions.
After graduating from NYU in 1991, Robert took a
job with Lazard Frères in New York where he worked for five years. He
moved on to the Goldman, Sachs Group and was assigned to the Hong Kong
office in 1997. In 2000 he was hired by Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong
where he was made managing director of global investments. In this
position he earned roughly $3 million a year in bonuses.
The Kissels lived in the rarefied world of the Hong
Kong expatriate community where highly-paid husbands are on-call to
their companies 24/7 and their wives, alone in a foreign culture, bond
with one another and strive to maintain luxury lifestyles in the
American mode. Hong Kong's ethnic Chinese refer to these women of
leisure as tai tai. When Robert Kissel died, his estate was
worth $18 million, but despite their wealth, the Kissels were not
living in bliss. Nancy Kissel stated at her trial that their marital
problems took a turn for the worse when they moved to Hong Kong in
According to Nancy, her husband had started using
cocaine while attending graduate school in New York, but it wasn't
until they settled in Hong Kong that his alleged habit became a
problem. To get some relief from the grueling pressures of his job,
Robert Kissel supposedly turned to cocaine and his alcoholic drink of
choice, single-malt scotch. When he drank and got high, he became
abusive, Nancy Kissel testified. With the birth of their first child,
her breasts began to sag, and she gained weight. Her husband didn't
find her as attractive as he once had, and according to Nancy, he
developed a preference for anal sex. Whenever she resisted his
demands, he would beat her and force himself on her. His forced entry
frequently caused bleeding, she said. But "if she cooperated," The
Sun reported on her testimony, "the act would finish sooner."
Nancy Kissel testified that her husband had become
more and more controlling, keeping tabs on her spending habits and
taking back four of her five credit cards. To the outside world, she
was a model mother of three young children who volunteered a great
deal of her time at the Hong Kong International School and at their
synagogue while maintaining her own photography business. But behind
closed doors, she lived in dread of her husband and his volatile
She recalled on the stand a time in 1998 when she
was pregnant with her son. When her husband learned that her due date
would interfere with a planned business trip to Korea, he flew into a
rage, demanding that she see her doctor about having the pregnancy
induced. She refused, and during their quarrel he threw a punch at
her. She ducked just in time, causing him to put his fist through the
wall, cracking a bone in his hand. Months later they fought over the
same issue, and this time he didn't miss, according to Nancy.
She claimed that she was able to maintain the
appearances of a perfect corporate wife while living in her own
private hell. She was willing to endure it, figuring that this was the
lot of the tai tai. But in March 2003, an improbable force of
nature sent her to the other side of the globe and into the arms of
someone who said he understood exactly what she was going through.
Shelter from the Storm
Of Hong Kong's 6.9 million residents, about 30,000
are American expatriates, but in the winter of 2003 the Americans
started to leave in droves. The Starbucks coffee shops, McDonald's
fast-food restaurants, and other business favored by the Americans
started losing business by the day. The SARS (severe acute respiratory
syndrome) epidemic had struck the city, and American women and
children fled to the United States in fear while their workaholic
husbands stayed on for their jobs. The Kissels decided that Nancy
would take their three children to the family's vacation home near
Stratton Mountain, Vermont.
As the epidemic worsened, there was no telling when
it would be safe for the expat families to return to Hong Kong. The
Kissels ordered an expensive home-theater system for their vacation
house, figuring that Nancy and the children would be staying there for
an indefinite period. The man who sold the equipment to the Kissels
sent his brother, Michael Del Priore, to install it.
Described by The Standard as "ruggedly
handsome," Del Priore and Nancy Kissel got to know one another while
he worked at her house. One day he confided to her that his alcoholic
father used to beat his mother. He revealed this to Nancy because he
noticed that she often wore the same downtrodden look that his mother
always had. Nancy would later testify at her trial that she found a
shoulder to cry on in the twice-married Del Priore who lived in a
nearby trailer park. They talked at length, Nancy pouring out her
troubles to him. Their friendship soon became a love affair, and Nancy
later admitted to having sex with him three times in her Vermont home.
She also bought him a $5,000 wristwatch. In July 2003, he took her to
a tattoo parlor where she had her children's names in Chinese
characters tattooed on her shoulder. She'd always wanted a tattoo, but
her husband forbade it.
By the end of the summer, the SARS epidemic had
abated, and Nancy returned to Hong Kong with her children. She stayed
in touch with Del Priore, calling him frequently. Though she loved Del
Priore, she told the court that she had never considered getting a
divorce. Her lover was just a temporary shelter from her stormy
marriage. Her home was Hong Kong, she said.
Her husband suspected that she was cheating on him,
so he hired a private investigator in the United States. The
investigator uncovered evidence of her relationship with Del Priore
but was unable to get photos or video of the lovers together. Robert
Kissel had told the investigator that he feared his wife would leave
him for Del Priore and take their children away from him.
Nancy claimed that her husband became increasingly
violent and erratic, throwing temper tantrums over relatively
insignificant matters such as not finding any orange juice in the
refrigerator. He also badgered her for sex, and with him it was always
rough sex. Her husband seemed to think that sex would patch up
whatever was wrong with their relationship, she believed. She also
came to believe that her husband had been engaging in gay sex while on
business trips throughout Asia, and she claimed that he searched the
Internet for gay pornography specifically related to anal sex.
Fearing that he was inspecting the telephone bills,
Nancy ordered a new cell phone for herself and had the bills sent to
the Hong Kong International School where she did extensive volunteer
work. What she didn't know was that her husband had hired private
investigators in Hong Kong to install a spyware program called
E-Blaster on the family computers in order to monitor her e-mail and
Internet use. The spyware uncovered search-engine entries for the
terms "sleeping pills, drug overdose, medication causing heart
attack." She testified that she was so desperate at one point she had
actually considered suicide, but she didn't want her children to know
that she had killed herself so she tried to find a method that would
look like a heart attack.
With the information she had obtained from her
internet searches, she consulted several doctors in Hong Kong and
managed to get five prescriptions that she felt would accomplish her
goal: the "date rape drug" Rohypnol; the painkiller
Dextropropoxythene; the sedative Lorivan; the antidepressant
Amitryptaline; and the sleeping pill Stilnox. She was ready to do
At Nancy Kissel's trial, the private investigator
hired by Robert Kissel to spy on his wife in Vermont testified that he
received a phone call from his client in late August 2003. Frank Shea
of Alpha Group Investigations said that Kissel was quite upset because
he believed his wife was poisoning his single-malt scotch. Robert
Kissel had told Shea that recently his favorite drink didn't taste
right and the effects of drinking it were "quite remarkable," making
him feel "woozy and disoriented." Shea advised Kissel to have a
sample of the scotch analyzed and to have himself tested for traces of
poisoning. But, according to Shea, Kissel "felt guilty about his
suspicions" and never took the investigator's advice.
On the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 2, 2003, Andrew
Tanzer brought his 7-year-old daughter to the Kissels' apartment for a
play date. Tanzer and his family lived in the same apartment
complex. He chatted with Robert Kissel while the girls played. After
about 45 minutes, Tanzer said he had to go and asked if he could have
a glass of water before he left. Instead of water, his daughter and
the Kissels' oldest daughter brought out two tall glasses filled with
a homemade milkshake. The girls offered one glass to Tanzer and the
other to Robert Kissel. On the stand, Tanzer described it as "reddish
in color, probably from strawberry flavoring.... fairly heavy, sweet,
thickened, tasting of bananas and crushed cookies."
Nancy Kissel "popped her head out of the kitchen"
and told Tanzer that it was "a secret recipe" and that the color was
in the spirit of Halloween, which had just passed. Like many of the
expat mothers in Hong Kong, Nancy went out of her way to celebrate
American holidays, and every fall she arranged to have a shipment of
pumpkins flown in for the Hong Kong International School. Tanzer was
in a hurry to leave, so he "drained" his glass. Robert Kissel drained
his as well.
When Tanzer returned to his apartment, his wife
noticed that his face was unusually red. He said he was tired and
fell into a deep sleep on the sofa. Worried that he wasn't well, she
tried to wake him, but even shouting in his face and slapping his
cheeks didn't rouse him. Later on a ringing telephone finally woke
him. He dozed on and off until dinner time, but by his own
description he behaved like "a temperamental baby." After eating the
main course, Tanzer devoured his ice-cream dessert. He then went to
the kitchen for more. He was insatiable and voraciously ate three
full cartons of ice cream. Afterward, again like a baby, he soiled
the furniture. The next morning when he woke from a night's sleep, he
remembered little of what had happened after returning from the
Kissels' apartment. He felt that he had experienced "something like
At Nancy Kissel's trial, senior assistant director
of Public Prosecutions Peter Chapman presented Andrew Tanzer's
testimony as proof that Nancy, 41, had drugged her husband in
preparation for his murder. The prosecution's contention was that her
"secret recipe" had rendered her husband defenseless. He passed out
on their bed, and she bludgeoned him five times in the head with what
the New York Times described as an "eight-pound figurine."
Government forensic experts testified that the blows produced "massive
spillage of brain substance" and caused Robert Kissel's death. The
prosecution stated that the murder was carried out with the "tacit
encouragement" of Nancy's lover, Michael Del Priore. And according to
the prosecution's timeline, Nancy Kissel kept her husband's bloodied
body in their apartment for three days, from the time of death on
Sunday evening, November 2, 2003, until maintenance men moved the
heavy rolled rug on the afternoon of Wednesday, November 5.
'An American Soap Opera'
Nancy Kissel's arrest and trial sent shock waves
through Hong Kong's American expat community. The Kissels were a
typical expat couple. Robert coped with his high-paying,
high-pressure job while Nancy maintained a luxurious household
complete with a Filipino servant and an amah (nanny) for her
children. Nancy Kissel was a familiar face in the community because
of her volunteer work and well-known among the other Hong Kong "soccer
moms." Perhaps what rattled the expats most was how similar the
Kissels were to them. Many of them shared the same marital problems
as the Kissels—lots of money, too much stress, not enough time
together. The only difference was that Nancy Kissel acted on her
frustrations and did what many other women in the expat community
might have fantasized at their darkest moments: she murdered her
Many of the expats condemned her from the start.
In their privileged enclave hermetically sealed with layers of money
and prestige, that sort of thing wasn't supposed to happen. But Nancy
had shown that it could happen there. Several of her friends ignored
the raised eyebrows and tongue-clucking and ran to her aid, some of
them offering to raise money for her defense.
For the ethnic Chinese in Hong Kong, the Kissel
affair provided a rare glimpse into the privileged world of the
gwailo (their derogatory term for "foreigner," literally "ghost
person"), and they followed the trial closely with a mix of
fascination and disapproval. The trial stretched through the summer
of 2005 with the local tabloids giving it the same kind of sensational
coverage that the O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson trials received in
America. Because of the victim's status in the business community,
journalists from business publications and news wires also reported on
the progress of the trial. Everyday the court was packed with
spectators—almost all of them from the expat community—eager to see
the next installment of the "American soap opera," as reporter Doug
Crets called it.
The entire jury was ethnic Chinese—seven men and
five women. "Juries here are stoic, stone-faced, pragmatic and with
their feet on the ground," barrister Kevin Egan told The
Standard. Money is very important to the Chinese, particularly
to the men. A woman accused of killing her wealthy husband allegedly
to take over his estate would be viewed dimly by Hong Kong locals.
Presenting Nancy Kissel as a battered housewife and a victim herself
would be risky for the defense. That kind of strategy, so common in
criminal cases in the United States, was almost unheard of in Hong
Kong. In barrister Egan's opinion, the defense would need a jury of
"cuckoos from Connecticut and neurotics from New York" to get an
But Nancy Kissel's barrister Alexander King must
have felt otherwise. He chose to appeal to the jury's sympathies for
an abused wife who claimed to have suffered under her husband's
tyranny for years. King made the ultimate legal gamble and put his
client on the stand. He would let Nancy Kissel tell her own story.
Every day a pale and gaunt Nancy Kissel appeared in
court wearing the same outfit—a simple black dress and oval
metal-rimmed glasses. Her dark, dead-straight hair hung loose below
her shoulders. Constantly by her side was her mother, Jean
McGlothlin, their fingers often interlaced in a tight grip.
By the end of July 2005, the prosecution had
presented its case, portraying Nancy Kissel as a duplicitous, cheating
wife who meticulously planned the murder of her husband so that she
could run off with her lover. Though there were no eye witnesses to
the crime, the circumstantial evidence presented was overwhelming.
The same prescription drugs she had obtained from doctors for herself
were found in her dead husband's body. Andrew Tanzer, the family
friend, who shared the pink milkshake with the victim, testified to
feeling nearly comatose and acting bizarrely after drinking Nancy's
"secret recipe." Maintenance men at her apartment complex testified
that she had ordered them to move the rug containing Robert Kissel's
body to a storage bin. Bloody clothes and linens found in the storage
compartment and in the apartment indicated that the victim withstood a
brutal beating from a heavy blunt object, and that the beating had
happened on the couple's bed. The prosecution claimed that the murder
weapon was a "heavy figurine" that the Kissels had kept in their
Nancy Kissel could have pleaded insanity in the
murder of her husband, but that would have guaranteed her indefinite
incarceration in a psychiatric facility. Instead she and her
barrister chose another gambit, diminished responsibility. The legal
system in Hong Kong, which is based on the British system, allows
defendants to plead guilty to a crime committed under extraordinary
circumstances that reduce the defendant's culpability. Nancy Kissel
would get on the stand and describe the hell that her marriage had
become. She would tell the court that behind closed doors her husband
was a monster, and that he drove her to commit murder. But it was a
risky move on the defense's part. By entering a plea of diminished
responsibility, the burden of proof shifts from the prosecution to the
defense. The prosecution would only have to poke holes in her version
of events to win the case.
On August 1, 2005, Nancy Kissel took the stand and
presented a very different portrait of her husband. To the expat
community, Robert Kissel was successful, respected, and admired by his
colleagues and friends. But to his wife, he was a cocaine addict and
a brutal control freak who beat her regularly and forced her to have
rough anal and oral sex nearly every night.
According to Nancy, her husband's use of cocaine
started when he was studying for his MBA in New York and she was
working three waitressing jobs to support them. They would argue
about it, and she would vehemently protest that he was wasting her
hard earned money on drugs. He eventually got his degree, and their
Serious trouble started, she testified, after the
birth of her first child. She had gained weight and her body had
changed. Robert no longer found her attractive. He hounded her to
lose weight. According to Nancy, his sexual preference had turned
toward anal sex. She believed that he didn't want to see her face
anymore. He was rough with her in bed, pulling her hair to get her to
do what he wanted. These assaults became more and more frequent.
With tears in her eyes, Nancy Kissel told the court that she soon
learned to accept his unwanted penetration because when she resisted,
the result would be anal bleeding. On one occasion, he was so
aggressive she heard something "pop" in her torso. After going to the
hospital, she learned that he had broken one of her ribs.
She claimed that his high-pressure job and the
transfer to Hong Kong triggered his worst impulses. In 1999 when she
was five months pregnant with her youngest child, Robert had a fit
when he realized that her due date coincided with an important
business trip to Korea. He had planned on her accompanying him, so he
asked her to have her doctor induce labor early so that she could go
with him. She refused, and he threw a tantrum, pounding the walls
with his fists and threatening to hit her. Two months later he
brought up the issue again. She stood her ground and refused to even
consider it, and this time he did hit her.
The SARS epidemic came as a blessing for her and
got her away from her husband's physical tyranny, though he continued
to keep close tabs on her spending. While staying at their Vermont
vacation home, she met Michael Del Priore and found someone she could
talk to. They enjoyed each other's company and became lovers, but at
no time, she testified, did she ever consider leaving her marriage.
Her life was in Hong Kong, she said, with her husband and children.
'I'm Going to Kill You, You Bitch!'
Nancy Kissel's heartrending testimony took up the
first ten days of August. She described her first attempt to ask
Robert for a divorce after seeing a marriage counselor. He yelled, "If
there's a divorce, you don't ask for it. I'm the one who makes the
money. If there's a divorce, you don't ask for it. I ask for it!"
She went on to explain that she wasn't the only
target of his rages and that sometimes he overreacted with the
children, blowing up over relatively minor infractions. On one
occasion, she said, her younger daughter had been playing loudly on
the bed while her husband was trying to have a telephone conversation.
Robert allegedly lost his patience and yanked her off the bed by the
arm and broke it.
Nancy testified that she was having trouble
sleeping because of the turmoil in her life. She became so despondent
that she considered suicide, and even searched the Internet for a drug
that would kill her but make it seem like a heart attack, so that her
children wouldn't know that she had taken her own life. Based on her
research, she went to several doctors, complaining of symptoms that
would get her the drugs she wanted. By the end of October 2003, she
had stockpiled 10 tablets of Rohypnol and 20 tablets of the painkiller
Dextropropoxythene, as well as prescriptions for a sedative, an
antidepressant, and a sleeping medication.
According to Nancy, on October 23, 2003, she and
her husband had another bitter argument about divorce. Once again he
lost his temper, beat her, and forced himself on her. The incident
left her so distraught she consulted a pediatrician, complaining that
she was so worried about her husband's behavior, she was afraid to
fall asleep at night. The doctor gave her a prescription for sleeping
On the morning of November 2, 2003, the entire
Kissel family attended services at their synagogue. According to her
testimony, that afternoon Nancy Kissel made pink milkshakes for the
children. While she was in the kitchen, her husband stood in the
hallway and announced that he had filed for divorce and was taking the
children. He said that she wasn't fit to care for them. Nancy
testified that he was holding a baseball bat, and as reported by
Albert Wong in The Standard, Robert started tossing it from
one hand to the other. He told Nancy that he needed the bat "for
protection" from her.
Robert Kissel then walked down the hallway toward
the master bedroom. Nancy testified that she followed him, demanding
answers. She was carrying a heavy figurine, which she had taken from
the kitchen. In the hallway, she pointed her finger in his face.
"What do you mean, you've filed for divorce?" she
He slapped her hand away twice, but she kept
pointing at him, a habit of hers that he detested. He snatched her
hand and held onto it. She struggled to break free, but he wouldn't
let go. She spat in his face, and he retaliated by striking her
"across the mouth," She told the court. She fell down and dropped the
Nancy Kissel testified that her husband then
"pulled me into the room, threw me onto the bed and started having sex
with me." She tried to fight him off, kicking him. They wrestled and
"ended up on the floor." She tried to "crawl away," according to her
testimony but he grabbed her by the ankles.
"'I'm not finished with you yet,'" she claimed that
he said. "He wouldn't let go."
"I reached for the statue," she testified, "and I
swung back. I didn't even look. I felt that I hit something."
When she looked back, she saw her husband sitting
on the floor, bleeding from the head. "I tried to help him up and he
wouldn't let me," she said. He dragged himself up onto the bed and sat
there, stunned. When he touched his head and realized that he was
bleeding, he became enraged. He picked up the bat and swung at her,
hitting her in the leg and knee.
She held the statue up to her face for protection,
and she felt the bat hitting metal, stinging her hands.
On the stand, a trembling Nancy Kissel fell silent.
She couldn't go on. Her counsel Alexander King asked if she could tell
the court anything else about the fight.
She didn't respond.
Under further questioning from King, Nancy Kissel
claimed that she had no other recollection of the incident or the days
that followed. She vaguely recalled driving in her car the next day,
but couldn't remember buying the rug that was used to conceal her
husband's body as the prosecution contends. Nor could she remember
cleaning up the bedroom or arranging for the removal of the rug with
her husband's body in it. At the time, she said, she didn't even
realize that he was dead.
Her memory of those days "came back in little
pieces" about six months later, she said, while she was incarcerated
at the Siu Lam Psychiatric Center.
'I Still Love Him Deeply'
The prosecution's cross-examination of Nancy Kissel
began with one simple question: "Do you accept that you killed Robert
Kissel?" prosecutor Peter Chapman asked.
"Yes," Nancy Kissel said.
"Did you further cause the injuries on Robert
Kissel with the metallic ornament?"
"Yes," she replied.
During Chapman's cross-examination, which went on
for five days, Nancy Kissel insisted that her memory of the events
surrounding her husband's death remained "patchy" and that she had
repressed them for months even though she had no history of memory
Chapman asked if she had ever told anyone about her
husband's alleged sexual assaults on her.
"No," she said. It was "not something you talk
about to the girls."
Chapman asked if she ever screamed during the bouts
of rough sex with her husband.
"Did I scream out?" she said. "I may have."
Chapman asked if anyone ever heard her.
"I don't know. A lot of the time I was facing
"Have you ever been examined in relation to the
results of forceful anal sex?" Chapman asked.
"No. It's humiliating," she said.
When asked if she had sent her daughter to deliver
the tainted milkshake to her husband, she adamantly denied involving
her daughter in any such thing, adding that the children were out of
the house when the fatal argument began.
Chapman explored Nancy Kissel's allegation that her
husband had broken their younger daughter's arm after the child had
made noise while he was on the phone. Previously the Kissels' maid,
Conchita "Connie" Pee Macaraeg, had testified that the little girl had
broken her arm while playing with her older sister. "Who's making up
the story," Chapman asked, "you or Connie?"
When Chapman suggested that Nancy Kissel was simply
trying to smear her husband's name, the defendant became visibly
upset, saying that as much as her husband's behavior scared her, she
felt helpless to do anything about it. "If it weren't for those
things, I would still be with him," she said with tears streaming down
her face. "I still love him deeply."
Kissel went on to explain that the family was in
chaos on the day that her daughter was injured, so she and her maid
might have seen things differently.
Under Chapman's questioning, Kissel admitted that
on August 3, 2003, she had flown to New York from Hong Kong with her
husband who was scheduled to undergo back surgery in Manhattan. While
he was in the operating room, Nancy met her lover Michael Del Priore
in Central Park for an hour and a half.
Chapman then asked her about her phone records,
which indicated that she had made 52 phone calls to Del Priore in
September 2003 and 106 in October of that year. On the day that she
had obtained a prescription for the potent "date-rape drug" Rohypnol,
she had called Del Priore seven times.
Chapman pointed out that she had called Del Priore
at 7:41 a.m. on the morning after her husband's death and spoke to him
for 24 minutes. "By this time," Chapman said, "you're unlikely to
need a sympathetic ear about an abusive husband."
Kissel replied that she and Del Priore discussed
many issues during that conversation.
Chapman then asked if she had informed Del Priore
that she had "solved the problem" regarding her husband.
Kissel said that she couldn't remember.
Phone company records showed that on November 4,
2003, Nancy Kissel called Del Priore six times, Chapman said. This
was the day that she went to her doctor and complained of "total body
pain," though she never mentioned anything about sodomy or a baseball
bat. Dr. Annabelle Dytham would later testify that Kissel's "pained
reactions were disproportionate to the actual injury" she found.
Closed-circuit security video presented in court showed Nancy Kissel
on the morning after the alleged beating carrying a suitcase, shopping
bags, and the rug used to wrap her husband's body.
Chapman finally brought up Nancy Kissel's version
of the physical confrontation with her husband on Sunday, November 2,
2003, and asked how she had managed to defend herself with the metal
"I don't know," Kissel replied.
"Because it didn't happen, Mrs. Kissel," Chapman
shot back. "It just didn't happen."
The accused cried out, "He was going to kill me!
He was going to kill me! Oh, God, he was going to kill me!"
With that, Chapman concluded his cross-examination.
'This Was a Cold-Blooded Murder'
The defense called a series of character witnesses
who portrayed Nancy Kissel as a dedicated mother, an active volunteer
at her children's school, and a troubled wife in a deteriorating
marriage. One friend testified that she had seen Kissel with a black
eye in late October 2003, but assumed that it was the result of a
"bump with her child." Later Macia Barham, the head music teacher at
the Hong Kong International School, was asked if she had ever noticed
the accused wearing a black eye. Barham said she'd never seen any
injuries on Kissel's face but added that Kissel habitually wore blue-
or yellow-tinted glasses indoors, which the teacher attributed to
Kissel's "artistic personality," Albert Wong reported in The
Judge Michael Lunn granted the prosecution's
request to introduce "rebuttal evidence" relating to Nancy Kissel's
testimony regarding her husband's sexuality, specifically her
statements regarding his interest in gay and anal sex. Testimony had
been heard earlier in the trial stating that the Kissels' family
computer had been used for an internet search on the phrase "anal sex
in Taiwan" on April 4 and 5, 2003, while Nancy and her children were
in America sitting out the SARS outbreak. Robert Kissel had taken a
business trip to Taiwan a few days after that search had been
performed. Computer expert Benedict Pasco testified that he had
examined the family computer as well as Robert Kissel's personal
laptop computer. He found no evidence of Web surfing for pornography
on the laptop. On the family desktop, Pasco did find evidence of
visits to pornographic web sites. Under cross-examination by defense
counsel Alexander King, Pasco stated that searches were conducted on
the phrase "anal sex in Taiwan" and that pornographic sites had been
visited on the desktop on two occasions that lasted an hour and a half
The prosecution was allowed to revisit the matter
of the wooden baseball bat, which Kissel claimed her husband had used
on her on the day he died. Government forensic expert Dr. Wong
Koon-hung testified that after conducting extensive tests, he
concluded that the metal statue Nancy Kissel said she used to defend
herself was not struck repeatedly by the bat, as she claimed, because
the bat showed no signs of paint smears from the painted statue and
the malleable metal of the statue showed no wood grain patterns as a
result of having been struck. In previous testimony, government DNA
expert Dr. Pang Chi-ming testified that "human material" had been
found on the bat, but that the DNA matched neither the deceased nor
the accused. He stated that the DNA found on the bat belonged to
another female. In an odd twist, the bat had been taken from the
Kissels' apartment by defense counsel before the police arrived on
November 6, 2003, and was not handed over to authorities until the
trial was well under way.
Summations began in late August 2005. Prosecutor
Peter Chapman told the jury, "This was a cold-blooded murder." Instead
of the life-or-death struggle with a madman that Nancy Kissel had
depicted, Chapman said the defendant had used the metal figurine to
"inflict the injuries on Robert Kissel as he was lying down," helpless
or even unconscious as a result of drinking the potent milkshake she
had given him. Her motive, Chapman contended, was "to remove the
obstacle in her life that Robert Kissel had become," so that she could
make room for her lover Michael Del Priore.
In his summation, defense counsel Alexander King
maintained that his client had killed her husband in self-defense in a
struggle that began when he announced that he was filing for divorce
and taking the children away from her. King further claimed that
police investigators had overlooked bloodstains in the apartment that
would have proven that a struggle had taken place. King characterized
the victim as "unpleasant" and "brutal" and countered the
prosecution's contention that the accused's lover Michael Del Priore
simply saw a "gold mine" in Nancy Kissel. On the contrary, Del Priore
was a confidante and a friend, according to King. The five blows to
Robert Kissel's head were Nancy's frantic attempts to subdue him
before he hurt her.
After hearing the summations, Judge Michael Lunn
instructed the jury to consider the possibility that Nancy Kissel had
killed her husband in self-defense without premeditation. He also
asked them to keep in mind that "Robert Kissel was well-built... and
the defendant is a relatively slightly built female."
'Spartan but Safe'
The jury deliberated for only eight hours. They
returned to the crowded courtroom at 8:30 p.m. on September 1, 2005,
and the jury foreman read their unanimous decision: "Guilty."
Nancy Kissel, dressed in black as she had been
throughout her trial, showed no emotion. Standing before Judge Lunn,
she immediately received her sentence. Under Hong Kong law, the
mandatory penalty for murder is life imprisonment. Kissel was then
whisked out of the courtroom. Her mother, who had stood by her side
throughout the ordeal, was not allowed to touch her daughter as she
Prisons in Hong Kong are reputed to be "Spartan but
safe," according to the New York Times, and Kissel is now
serving her sentence at the Tai Lam Institute for Women. A government
board will review her sentence in five years, then every two years
thereafter, and they have the power to recommend a commutation to a
fixed term. If that were to happen, she could be released after
serving two-thirds of that term. According to reporter Clare Cheung
of Bloomberg.com, Kissel could also file an appeal to be transferred
to a federal prison in the United States, in which case she'd be
eligible for parole after serving 10 years.
Criminal charges have not been brought against
Nancy's lover, Michael Del Priore, and prosecutors in Hong Kong
apparently have no plans to do so.
After Robert Kissel's murder, the three Kissel
children were sent to the United States to live with Nancy's father,
Ira A. Keeshin, and his wife in Winnetka, Illinois. But the couple
found it difficult caring for the three young children, according to
the New York Times, and Keeshin made plans to have his son by
his second wife, an unmarried medical student, take custody of the
Robert Kissel's younger brother, Andrew Kissel, who
lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, petitioned the court for guardianship
of his nephew and two nieces. He and his wife Hayley have two
children of their own, and Andrew Kissel argued that his household
would be a more appropriate environment for his brother's children,
promising to give them a "stable, loving home." The court granted him
temporary custody against the apparent wishes of Nancy Kissel, who had
written a notarized declaration from the Siu Lam Psychiatric Center on
December 18, 2003, that "in no event shall my three children be placed
under the care, direction, or supervision of Andrew Kissel."
In July 2005, Andrew Kissel was hit with legal
problems of his own. Federal authorities have charged him with
extensive real-estate fraud. He's also under investigation by the
Manhattan district attorney's office in a separate case. Free on $1
million bail, he was ordered to wear an electronic ankle bracelet to
monitor his movements. At the same time, his wife filed for divorce.
Andrew's estranged wife Hayley is now caring for
Nancy Kissel's three children as well as her own.
Nancy Kissel appealed the guilty verdict citing
procedural errors in the trial, but on October 6, 2008, after nearly 5
months of deliberation, the Hong Kong Court of Appeal upheld the lower
court's verdict. In February, 2010, Nancy pleaded her case before the
the city's Court of Final Appeal, which found "numerous elements of
grave concern" when reviewing the case to decide if Nancy Kissel had
received a "fair trial." The Court unanimously allowed the appeal,
quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial.
On June 11, Kissel was awarded half her trial
expenses from the first trial. Her total expenses are estimated at
around $5.8 million. The retrial is scheduled to begin in November.
Until then she remains in a Hong Kong prison continuing to serve out
Kissels Of Death
One brother, the good son, high-powered Merrill
Lynch banker, was bludgeoned to death by his wife in Hong Kong after
being fed a narcotic milk shake—by his own young daughter. Another
brother, the bad son, stole millions of dollars, then was discovered
bound and stabbed in the back in his Greenwich mansion. The
unbelievable story of an ordinary family gone horribly wrong.
By Steve Fishman - NYMag.com
Even the most discontented family in the world has
a vision of happiness. And so, in the Kissel family, people liked to
look back at their times at Stratton Mountain in Vermont. “We skied
together,” says Bill Kissel, the father. “It’s a family sport.” The
Kissels had one house, and when Bill made his money, they built a
bigger one, Dad’s gift to the family. Then, as often as possible, it
was a speedy getaway in Bill’s Cadillac. From their New Jersey home,
it was just a few hours to Vermont.
Bill likes to recall those times. Bill’s wife,
Elaine, whom everyone adored, was still alive. The house was abuzz
with kids. Bill’s children brought their friends along, then showed
off for them. All three Kissel kids were great skiers, though Rob was
the best. Everyone remembered his slalom racing and how he sometimes
joined his sister, Jane, who did ballet on skis. Andrew liked to bring
his girlfriend and taught her to ski.
Bill, now 78, has photos on his desk in Florida,
where he moved years ago, snapshots of the kids during the Vermont
years. “I have a picture of Andrew with his mother when he was 2 years
old, adorable,” says Bill by phone one day. He says that Andrew had a
light in his eyes. “Life started out beautifully for all of us. We
were a happy family.”
But that was long ago. Before Rob was murdered by
his wife—drugged, bludgeoned, wrapped in a rug, and thrown in storage
with used odds and ends—and before the nasty public battle between
Andrew, his sister, his wife, his father, his brother’s father-in-law
over custody of the kids. It was before Andrew was indicted for a host
of swindles and facing years in prison. And before he was found
stabbed to death in his basement, a T-shirt pulled over his head, his
wife a possible suspect. Andrew’s murder last month was the final
blow. Vermont, with its happiness, seemed out of another lifetime. A
lifetime before people started to wonder if the Kissel family was
The tragedy of the Kissels is, in ways, a story
about a father and his sons, Rob and Andy (as they were called as
children). Rob was the extrovert, the more readily likable. Most
things seemed to come easily to Rob, younger than Andy by four years.
He was taller, better looking, and the superior athlete. Andy was
bright but somewhat bored in school, and didn’t make it to college
till a couple of years after high-school graduation. Rob got A’s with
what to his friends seemed little work. “Everything Rob did was
natural with him,” says Bill, who readily lists his exceptional
qualities. “At age 5, he could calculate things in his mind.” For
Bill, Rob’s character was exemplary, too. “Robert is the man I would
have liked to have been,” says Bill.
Bill can offer compliments about Andy too. “Andy
was very successful, very bright, and very creative,” says Bill, who
quickly adds, “He was in a hurry.” For Bill, it’s this last impression
that endures. One son was an achiever, the other sniffed for
shortcuts. Bill recalls how he gave his two teenage sons credit cards.
With his, Rob bought a pair of cheap shoes from Sears. Andy purchased
a fur jacket. “I don’t know if the money was the important thing for
Andy,” he says, “or what it said about you.”
Later, Andy would tell friends that he hadn’t ever
been close with his father. Bill never did know if Andy graduated from
college—he attended Boston University. Perhaps Andy felt shunned, the
second-place finisher in a two-brother race. Andy once told a friend
that his father belittled and humiliated him. Apparently, for Andy,
the feeling went way back. One of his oft-repeated stories was how the
brothers would race through dinner rather than linger with a difficult
Whatever frictions existed, Andy’s father provided
the family with a comfortable life, and later a very comfortable life.
Bill was a chemist, “a tinkerer,” he says modestly. When his business,
Synfax, which made toner for copiers, took off, he moved the family
into a 7,500-square-foot Saddle River home on a couple of acres of
land. It had a swimming pool, a semicircular driveway, and a three-car
garage that held Bill’s Cadillac and his wife’s Mercedes. Soon there
was also a boat.
Perhaps the family’s sudden rise in status
intrigued Andy. He seemed precociously attuned to the impression fancy
things made. In high school, he owned a Jeep and a souped-up Chevy Le
Mans. Lots of teenage boys like cars. With Andy, they seemed, in part,
a prop for his personality. People couldn’t always get a fix on Andy.
Says one friend, “You had to choose to like Andy if you wanted to find
the goodness in him.” And not everyone made the commitment. To many,
Andy seemed aloof. It was sad. “He really fundamentally wanted to be
liked,” says the friend. Maybe, as he rumbled into the school parking
lot in his Le Mans, it seemed he was.
Doriane, his high-school girlfriend, painted flames
on the Le Mans and even helped with mechanical work. “I was voted
best-looking in high school, and here I am with Wolfman Jack, fixing
an alternator,” she says. They dated for five years, long enough for
Doriane to enjoy Andy’s generous side. One day, she lamented how she
didn’t have a car. So Andy bought her one. “He spent, I think, $500 in
1977,” she says. “It took a long time to start it up in the morning,
but I was thrilled. My boyfriend bought me a car!”
A few years later, Doriane and Andy met up again,
this time in New York. She lived on the Upper East Side with a
boyfriend. Andy moved in as a roommate. By then, he had changed. “He’d
gone from being Andy to Andrew,” she says. Andy had been endearing,
funny, vulnerable, at times giving. Andrew was an up-and-comer
enamored of status signifiers. “His self-esteem came from what he had
around him,” says Doriane. He was a commercial-real-estate agent at an
unprestigious firm. But he already had a Porsche. He loved
restaurants. “He had a different air,” she says. He wanted Doriane to
hold her fork differently, correctly, and to speak formally. If you
asked Andrew to call you, he’d answer, “I shall.”
“Stop it!” Doriane teased him. “I know Andy!” Where
had Andy gone? The change didn’t surprise Doriane, but it saddened
her. “Oh, no,” she thought, “being Andrew is going to be a
Andrew met Hayley Wolff at Stratton. Hayley had
been Jane’s ski coach, and later Jane introduced the two. In 1992,
Andrew and Hayley, newly married, moved into a one-bedroom, $295,000
co-op apartment at 200 East 74th Street. Hayley was a blonde Ivy
Leaguer—University of Pennsylvania, then Columbia Business
School—sporty-looking, striking. She’d grown up in New York in a
well-to-do family—her father is CEO of Louis Berger, a $500 million
engineering firm in New Jersey. Hayley’s parents, too, had a house in
Vermont, and Hayley was a superstar skier. She loved to compete, and
in 1983, she became the women’s world mogul champion. Finance, though,
was her field; in a few years she was on track to be an analyst for
Not long after he and Hayley were married, Andrew
launched his own company. “He’d always wanted to be in real estate,”
says Bill. And, perhaps, like his father, he wanted to be in business
for himself. Andrew called his company Hanrock. Rob had helped with
the business plan, and maybe that’s why Andrew used the first letters
of Hayley, Andrew, Nancy (his brother’s new wife), and Rob in the
name. Hanrock purchased small apartment buildings in “under-the-radar
neighborhoods,” as he told his father, mostly in Hudson County, New
Rob eventually kicked in $500,000—a gesture of
brotherly support, perhaps. He could afford it. After business school
at NYU, Rob had gone to work for Goldman Sachs, which shipped him to
Hong Kong in 1997, a spectacular moment to land in Asia. The region
was in economic collapse. You could buy up debt for cents on the
dollar, turn around and sell it for two or three times that amount.
Rob loved “spending someone else’s money,” as he told a friend. And he
was good at it. In 2000, Merrill Lynch hired him away. Rob, says one
competitor, “was one of the best-respected investors in Asia after the
For a time, one Kissel brother seemed to outdo the
other. Rob was a financial whiz; Andrew’s real-estate ventures might
not be sexy, but as even his father says, “He was doing well.” The
brothers weren’t always close; for one thing, Rob’s wife didn’t get
along with Andrew (or with Hayley or Bill, for that matter). Plus
Andrew had that wild spending streak—sometimes he’d disappear from a
group only to show up later in a limo; Rob kept a tighter rein on his
finances. At times, Rob asked his wife for receipts on even minor
outlays. Still, they both drove Porsches, and each bought a vacation
house in Vermont, a few miles from one another. Rob, a hard charger,
seemed to appreciate their mutual success. As a friend of Rob’s says,
“Rob respected Andrew on a certain level because he was doing really
It was a view shared by Andrew’s neighbors at East
74th Street. Andrew impressed people with his cars. One was a $60,000
Mercedes E320 4matic station wagon; Andrew spent another $25,000 to
redo the interior. And there were larger, more impressive
expenditures. He bought two more apartments—one below his; another
adjacent—and combined them into a single sprawling unit that was the
showpiece of the building. Apparently, Andrew could easily cover the
costs. He let slip that he was worth $20 million. As a favor, he even
agreed to let a couple of neighbors invest in his New Jersey
To some, Andrew’s obvious success suggested
financial savvy. By 1995, he was serving as the co-op’s treasurer. For
convenience he had bills and bank statements sent directly to him.
Also, perhaps, for convenience, he became the only person who signed
off on checks for the co-op.
To most, Andrew seemed to do a fine job; he was
famously attentive to detail. Soon, though, some people began to
wonder why the modest building spent more than $1 million to redo the
lobby and hallways, as the financial report indicated.
“Anyone who thought about it would know that a
million dollars of work hadn’t been done,” says one resident, Michael
Assael, a lawyer and CPA.
In 2002, Assael got himself elected to the board
and joined the finance committee. Andrew chaired it and recruited his
neighbor David Parisier, who, after an introduction from Rob, became
Andrew’s partner in Hanrock that same year.
Assael bombarded Andrew with questions.
Andrew’s answers were short, deflecting, impatient.
“To some people on the board, Andrew seemed sophisticated,” says
Assael. “To me, he was a big phony baloney.” Assael’s tone grew
increasingly aggressive. “Are you sure our accountant didn’t mix our
co-op’s invoices up with Manhattan House?” he asked in one e-mail,
referring to one of the fancier buildings in the neighborhood.
Then at one finance meeting in 2003, Assael
remembers, “Andrew knew we caught him.”
“I just want to get this over with,” Andrew told
the committee. “I think I need some Valium.”
Andrew, it turned out, had created fake companies,
paid them inflated fees for work, and transferred the profits to his
own bank account. He had also opened up a line of credit for the
co-op. He had forged signatures, cut-and-pasted bank statements, and
eventually borrowed $2 million under the co-op’s name.
Andrew’s motivation was puzzling. After all, he
seemed to be making good money in New Jersey, where his company
controlled millions of dollars of property. He mentioned to Parisier
something about a cash-flow crunch. Eventually, Andrew reached a
confidential settlement with the co-op and coughed up $4.7 million.
In February 2003, Andrew had moved to Greenwich;
Hayley stayed behind with their two kids until the school year
finished. Hayley told friends that she didn’t know why Andrew made a
sudden exit. She said she didn’t hear of the scandal till May. Even
when Andrew transferred title of their Vermont house to Hayley a
couple of days after the co-op’s May audit, Hayley’s only thought was
that she loved the Vermont house and loved having it in her name.
“Wives don’t know,” she told a friend. When Hayley finally found out
about the scandal, she began sneaking down ten flights of stairs to
avoid her neighbors.
Hayley sometimes said she believed that “underneath
all the crap, there was a core Andrew that wanted to be a good
person.” Unfortunately, it was hard to see. Maybe it was because of
his mood swings, or his cocaine use, which several friends recalled.
Andrew could seem wired or else retreat into the TV. Emotionally, he
didn’t always participate; occasionally, he didn’t even show up. One
friend remembers that he’d miss dates—sometimes he’d stand up Hayley.
Hayley, who liked therapeutic explanations, told a friend that Andrew
suffered from bipolar moods, addictive personality, low self-esteem,
or, as she sometimes summed it up, “too much baggage.” She blamed his
childhood. These were among the reasons, as Hayley saw it, that their
marriage had been problematic for years. And so she said she didn’t
mind when Andrew decamped for Connecticut.
Greenwich is a place where people go to be wealthy,
and Andrew quickly made himself at home. By June, when Hayley and the
two kids joined him, he seemed to have put New York behind him. He’d
sold the 74th Street apartment at a huge profit and rented a giant
house in Greenwich. It had a swimming pool and a large piece of land
and cost $14,000 a month. In short order, Andrew appeared to be a
leading citizen of Greenwich.
Just as Andrew seemed to outdistance his financial
entanglements, trouble of a more ominous sort descended on Rob. For
years, Rob and his wife acted like a great, fun couple. Nancy hadn’t
been wild about moving to Hong Kong, and Rob worked grueling hours and
traveled constantly. But he earned tons, and they had a lavish
lifestyle. Merrill Lynch paid $20,000 a month to house them in an
exclusive expat development; it was like a resort, with three swimming
pools. And Nancy, who came from a modest background, loved the money.
She was like Andrew in that way. “The more money she got, the more she
wanted to spend it,” says one of her best friends.
Starting out, Nancy and Rob had struggled
together—Nancy had managed a Caliente Cab Co. in New York—but lately,
Rob was so important. As with Andrew, money seemed a way for Nancy to
assert herself, to make an impression. “It became like a tool that she
could use to make herself more important,” the friend says.
Perhaps taking a lover served the same purpose.
Nancy sometimes bragged about her sex life with Rob, but during a
spring 2003 stay at their Vermont house—she’d gone with their children
to avoid the Asian sars threat—she met a good-looking, middle-aged
Vermonter. He’d shown up at the house to repair her TV. Soon, he was
boasting about the expensive jewelry Nancy had given him and about the
tattoo he’d taken her to get, something Rob hadn’t wanted her to do.
Rob quickly became suspicious, and, with the help
of a private detective, uncovered the affair. Still, he seemed willing
to reconcile. He considered bringing Nancy’s lover to Hong Kong, even
paying for the move as a way to work things out. “It would have killed
him, though,” says a close friend. “He was into justice in a big way.
Nancy would make things bend to suit her, but Rob was very straight
down the line.” Rob and Nancy visited Australian friends in early
2003. “Rob was really depressed. He still loved her very much,” says
one of those friends, “but the marriage was over. You could just
In Hong Kong, in the early evening of November 2,
2003, just after Rob finished supervising a playdate for his three
children and a neighbor’s kids, his daughter delivered him a pink milk
shake. It tasted like ground-up cookies and strawberry ice cream and
something else. The drink contained Rohypnol and three other
sedatives, medications recently prescribed for Nancy. As he lay
drugged in bed, Rob was struck five times in the head with an
eight-pound lead statue that had belonged to Nancy’s grandmother.
Six days later, Nancy was arrested. Police said
she’d slept in the room with Rob’s body for two days before buying a
new carpet, rolling Rob’s body inside the old one, and then directing
workmen to put it in storage.
Quickly, the many relatives flew to Hong Kong.
Andrew, who just a few weeks earlier had settled with the co-op board,
was devastated by the news. Jane, who adored Robbie, as she called
him, came from Washington State. Bill flew in from Florida. Nancy’s
father, Ira Keeshin, arrived from Chicago, and Nancy’s half-brother,
Brooks, came from Cincinnati.
For the extended family, it was an impossible
reunion. Bill was beside himself. He believed that Nancy had murdered
his son. But almost worse, her defense—she pleaded not guilty—was that
Rob was a drug user who had abused her. When Ira supported his
daughter, Bill turned on him.
“Bill treats me as the enemy,” says Ira. “He treats
me as if I don’t exist.” And yet, whatever Bill thought of Ira, or
Nancy, Ira and Bill had to cooperate on the matter of the three
grandchildren. “It was horrible,” says Bill.
Perhaps Bill would have felt better if he’d had
some legal authority. But his relationship with Rob hadn’t always been
easy. They’d reconciled, and had in recent years spent happy time
together, but there’d been periods when Rob refused to allow his
father’s name to be mentioned.
For Rob, Nancy’s father no doubt had been a less
complicated presence. Plus Ira is relaxed, blunt, eager to laugh. “Rob
and I were father-son, very close,” says Ira, who’s in the bakery
business. In his will, drawn up in 1998, Rob named Ira his children’s
guardian—in part, perhaps, to please Nancy.
Eventually, Bill and Ira sat down in Hong Kong. In
a handwritten agreement on Marriott-hotel stationery, they said that
Ira would take temporary custody; future decisions would be made by
Rob and Nancy’s kids needed all the help they could
get. And yet circumstance pitted one family against another.
Inevitably, the struggle over the kids became a proxy fight, a warm-up
for the drama that would unfold in a Hong Kong courtroom. As if
bitterness and anger weren’t fuel enough, there was a further cause
for suspicion. Rob’s kids were rich. Court papers said each was worth
$5 million (before taxes). When it came to the kids, someone always
seemed to believe that the other person’s true motive was greed.
Immediately after the murder, the three children,
ages 3 to 9, moved in with Ira, an arrangement that quickly fell
apart. Ira, 62 at the time, reported that “the tragedy,” as he called
it, had made Joanie, his third wife, ill. In December 2003, he wrote
Andrew that, instead, he had found them “a loving, nurturing, and
stable environment.” Ira sent the kids to live with his son, Brooks,
Nancy’s half-brother, a 24-year-old medical student at the University
of Cincinnati. (He added that it was his hope that “this decision will
in on”—Ira had mistyped the word no—“way be a source of conflict.")
“A lot of 24-year-olds raise families,” says Ira.
“Brooks had his mother there [in Cincinnati]. There was support. It
wasn’t like he was in the wilderness.” The children’s nanny, who’d
cared for them in Hong Kong, moved with them. “Brooks was huge,” says
Ira. “He’s the true hero.”
To Bill, the arrangement seemed like lunacy. “It’s
not normality. People don’t do things like this,” Bill says. And to
him, the move seemed spiteful, an attempt at all costs to keep Rob’s
children away from the Kissels.
Bill moved aggressively to, as he saw it, rescue
his grandkids. “He was pretty malignant,” recalls Brooks, now a
resident in pediatric psychiatry at the University of Utah. “He
threatened that he would ruin me and everyone that was close to me,
bankrupting my father, making sure I never practiced medicine. And he
at least gave the appearance that he meant it.”
Jane wanted the kids, but she already had two of
her own, one just a few months old. So Andrew sued for custody. For
once, he emerged as the family’s lead actor, its good guy. Even his
father praised him.
Ira sometimes felt descended upon by the Kissels—to
him, they seemed to swarm. But he found Andrew the least
objectionable. It helped that Andrew had once apologized for Bill. “My
father,” Ira remembers Andrew saying, “I can’t explain—he’s been like
this his whole life.”
Andrew and Ira rarely spoke face-to-face. “Andrew
always said that he had a difficult time talking in person, and that’s
why he liked to talk on the telephone or through a lawyer,” Ira says.
For Ira, Andrew’s style worked. “Well, Andrew realized that I wasn’t
the enemy,” says Ira, “and, I don’t know, we got along.”
Ira signed off, and at the end of 2003, Andrew
boarded a private Marquis jet to Cincinnati to collect the kids. It
cost $8,000, which he billed to Rob’s estate.
In Greenwich, Andrew took up life as a father of
five, a patriarch coming to the aid of his younger, much-loved
brother, and also as a rising businessman.
He’d already liquidated his New Jersey real estate
for about $25 million. Even after deducting about $8 million in bank
debt and $14 million owed investors, he still had probably $3 million
of profit. Andrew, though, netted much more, since he failed to inform
investors—including his brother and those East 74th Street
neighbors—that he’d sold the properties. Instead, he continued to send
them their share of the supposed income, along with rosy financials.
With the inflated proceeds, Andrew invested in
Connecticut real estate, often shrewdly. He clearly had a knack. There
was, for instance, a profitable multi-unit building, Woodbury Knoll,
in Woodbury, Connecticut.
Andrew had other projects, perhaps none as
important as keeping up with his Greenwich neighbors. He built a
collection of sixteen luxury cars. To tool around town, he drove a
Porsche Cayenne or a Mercedes wagon or a Ferrari (he had four
Ferraris). If the family went to the club for dinner, they took two
cars since Andrew insisted on arriving in a Ferrari. He bought a
yacht, an 80-foot Lazzara he named Special K’s. Plus he was
building, as he put it, a dream house, a 10,000-square-foot
Adirondack-style mansion nearby.
After Rob’s death, Andrew’s spending accelerated;
it appeared almost limitless. “One of his children was interested in
riding, so he bought into Epona Stables. He was so enthusiastic,”
recalls one Greenwich associate. Andrew invested in several Greenwich
businesses—a liquor store, an import-export business. He put $50,000
into the Beach House Cafe. Andrew’s free-spending ways made him seem
magnanimous, a big shot, and in case anyone missed the point, he hired
a PR agent. “He was what we call a pleaser,” says one person who dealt
with him professionally. “He wanted everybody to like him and worked
hard at making them,” says one Greenwich business associate.
Andrew was still in the business of owning
apartment buildings, but soon he moved into a more glamorous end of
real estate. Andrew and his partner David Parisier, his former East
74th Street neighbor, became developers. Why Parisier continued to
work with Andrew after the co-op fiasco wasn’t clear. Maybe, as one
person who worked with both suggested, “David was looking at dollar
signs and thinking Andrew was a ticket for him.” They purchased land
and started construction. “They didn’t have the slightest idea how to
build a house,” says a builder who worked with them. To him, it seemed
like Andrew and Parisier spent most of their energy going at one
another. “It was the most dysfunctional group I was ever with,” he
says. “I don’t think they trusted each other. I don’t think Andrew
Whatever inefficiencies Hanrock experienced, a
rising real-estate market bailed them out. Their first house, on 18
Burning Tree Road, brought almost $1 million in profit.
Still, Andrew’s expenses outpaced his income. To
Bill, viewing it from afar, Andrew’s excessive spending was egged on
by Hayley. “Andrew had had to keep up with his expectations of himself
and his wife,” says Bill. At one point, Bill, often cutting in anger,
called Hayley “a moneygrubbing bitch,” as one person close to Hayley
Perhaps Hayley was another of those people Andrew
needed to impress. Hayley, though, told people she didn’t particularly
like Andrew’s “shopping addiction,” as she called it. It was one of
the things they fought about. Her main focus, she insisted, was the
five kids. And she didn’t feel she deserved any grief from the
Kissels. “I’ve done nothing but stand up for your family, defend your
family, take care of your family,” she’d later tell Jane. She’d
welcomed Rob’s children when no one else would, she said.
Rob’s estate covered the kids’ expenses, $8,000 per
month, not including schools, camps, and therapists. But money wasn’t
the only challenge. Andrew wasn’t much help. He’d intervened as
savior, but Hayley attended the five parent-teacher conferences and
the five school plays and, of course, took them to Stratton.
“It’s brutal work taking care of five kids,” Hayley
told a friend. “I get impatient, stressed, frenzied, and am prone to
the occasional rant.” By most accounts, she did a fine job; even Bill
said so at one point. And at the end of each day, she was proud that
everyone sat down to a fun family dinner. At one point, Andrew even
bought a larger, $6,000 dining-room table to accommodate the new
arrivals—it showed up (Andrew charged 30 percent of the cost) as part
of a $171,000 bill to Rob’s estate.
For Hayley, life with five kids was manageable, but
coexistence with Andrew proved impossible. By the middle of 2004,
their rocky fourteen-year marriage was coming apart. Hayley’s
confidante in these matters was her old friend and ski student, Jane.
They’d long been close: Jane sometimes told Hayley that she loved her
like the sister she never had.
In the summer of 2004, Hayley started phoning Jane
to vent. Jane, apparently alarmed at the tenor of the conversations,
took notes, copies of which were obtained by New York Magazine.
The notes begin dramatically on July 2, 2004: “Hayley said she is
leaving Andrew.” The next day, Hayley told Jane that Andrew was having
an affair. “It is the last straw,” say Jane’s notes. “He has
embarrassed her enough.” On June 16, 2004, at 7:15 in the morning,
Hayley added in an e-mail, “I am busting my ass taking care of five
kids . . . while he is off having dinner [with her] at nice
restaurants and calling her all day.”
Soon Hayley confided suspicions about Andrew’s
business. “She thinks his business is a Ponzi scheme,” say the notes.
She thought he sold a building and didn’t tell anyone. “She does not
want to have to explain to her kids why Dad is in jail.”
Maybe Hayley should have suspected something long
before. She’s financially sophisticated. “How could a wife not know?”
Bill later wondered. By Hayley’s account, if she ever asked, Andrew
would lash out. She told a friend what Andrew said: “It’s none of your
fucking business. I don’t tell you how to analyze stocks. Don’t tell
me how to run my business.” Hayley told a friend she was afraid of
him. “He won every fight” was how she put it.
Recently alcohol had become Andrew’s drug of
choice. No doubt, it affected his moods. The catalyst to one ugly
mood, Hayley e-mailed Jane, was that a friend had canceled golf with
Andrew. “This was a result of [the friend] being on his boat drinking
with the guys every night that his wife was in Canyon Ranch with the
girls.” Apparently, Andrew was in a horrible funk because of that. “It
was worsened because I was invited on the boat for girls’ night to
watch a Diana Ross concert in Greenwich (across the harbor).”
Jane, like the rest of the family, had been unaware
of Andrew’s financial misdeeds. Now Hayley told Jane, “I can’t take it
anymore. It amazes me I let him treat me like that. I am a smart
I can’t believe I have stayed in this relationship
Jane might have begun as Hayley’s friend. She grew
increasingly frightened for Rob’s kids. Especially when, according to
the notes, she heard Hayley say this: “I hate to say it, but every
time I see Rob’s kids I see Andrew, and I hate to take it out on them,
but I can’t help it."
Early in 2005, Hayley talked of moving Rob’s kids
to Jane’s place in Washington. In February 2005, Hayley finally filed
for divorce, and by March, it seemed to be agreed that Rob’s kids
would go to Jane at the end of the school year.
At the end of March, though, Andrew called Jane.
The kids, he told her, were staying with him, say Jane’s notes. He
seemed resentful and furious. Andrew insisted that he intended to work
through his difficulties with Hayley. Then he raged at his sister, as
if in his time of need she’d decided to compete for the affection of
the children. “I can’t believe you are doing this to me,” said Andrew,
according to Jane’s notes. “I can’t believe you are hitting me from
the flanks. I will fight you on this.”
Increasingly, Andrew was fighting on all fronts.
More and more, it seemed that the legitimate side of Andrew’s
businesses served only as a cover for illegal transactions. “He’d sit
in his office and drink,” says one person who knew him in Greenwich.
“And he’d do these crimes.”
A former employee of Hanrock, Juanita Johnson, had
been a notary public. When she left, Andrew got hold of her stamp.
Andrew’s scheme was brazen and simple. He typed up a form stating the
mortgage on a particular property had been repaid—sometimes they were
properties he didn’t legally control. He notarized the form with
Johnson’s stamp and had it filed with the clerk’s office. Then he’d
take out another mortgage on the same property. He took out three
mortgages in one year on one parcel. He did the same on the Vermont
house, though first, since it was in Hayley’s name, he forged
documents, transferring it to himself. As long as he kept up with
payments on each of the loans, no one was the wiser. And as one
associate says, “He diligently serviced the debt.”
Andrew may have believed that he and Hayley would
reconcile, but as summer approached, that prospect grew remote. In
fact, one night in May, Hayley lay in bed and fantasized about killing
Andrew. As usual, she confided in Jane. “God I HATE YOUR BROTHER!” she
wrote in a May 22, 2005, e-mail.
“You okay?” responded Jane.
The next morning, Hayley said she was, though the
rest of her e-mail suggested otherwise. “I could actually see myself
pummeling him to death and just enjoying the sensation,” she wrote. To
Hayley, these were the normal thoughts of a person in the midst of a
poisonous divorce. Still, it was a haunting image, especially since
Andrew’s brother had been pummeled to death by his wife. The next
morning, Hayley pulled out of the garage, heading to spin class, and
thought about crashing into his beloved Ferraris.
A few weeks later, one of Andrew’s many real-estate
lawyers happened to read through the chain of title. He noticed
something unusual. Why, he wondered, did several out-of-state banks
use the same Stamford, Connecticut, notary, Juanita Johnson? Parisier
was also getting suspicious. Refinance guys called him to talk about
loans he knew nothing about. When Parisier confronted Andrew, he blew
up. “How dare you! Don’t come back to the office. I’ll kill you!” said
Andrew, according to a person close to Parisier. Parisier returned,
but with bodyguards.
Soon, Andrew hired a criminal-defense lawyer.
“You’re in a lot of trouble,” Greenwich attorney Philip Russell told
“I know,” he said. Russell talked to the FBI, which
launched its own investigation. All told, Andrew’s frauds amounted to
$25 million in three states, the FBI charged.
In May 2005, as Hayley mused about the joys of
killing Andrew, Nancy Kissel’s murder trial got under way. In Hong
Kong, it was the splashiest scandal in years. The press labeled it the
“milk-shake murder” and covered it like the O.J. case. Nancy
maintained her innocence, though midway through her testimony, she
shocked the court by admitting that she’d killed Rob. She said it was
during a fight and that Rob was an abusive drug user. These were
accusations that none of Rob’s friends, and only a few of Nancy’s,
believed. For Bill, it was slander. Attending the trial all day, then
reading blogs about the trial at night, Bill was distraught. He lashed
out at anyone who attacked his son. (To one of Nancy’s friends who
defended her on a Website, Bill e-mailed pointedly, “Keep it up and
you can become the victim. You are not immune.”)
And still, there were Rob and Nancy’s kids. With
Andrew’s household falling apart, the extended family had to
collaborate on another decision.
By July, according to Jane’s notes, Hayley had
reneged on what Jane thought was an agreement to transfer the kids to
Jane. Hayley told Jane, say the notes, “I am going to do what is best
for myself.” Hayley suggested that Andrew had left her financially
strapped. “If I have to keep the kids it may not be the best thing for
them, but at the least I will not be on the street,” say the notes. It
was a strange threat. Hayley came from money; she’d always been a good
Perhaps it was a way to taunt Jane. Hayley felt
underappreciated. She was furious at Andrew and Bill, and now, it
seemed, at Jane as well. All her sacrifices, her devoted mothering,
and now she was being cast as part of the problem. Suddenly she
declared, “I am not going to let the Kissels take anything more from
me. I have given enough.” She promised to fight to keep the kids.
And yet Hayley wasn’t always as hard-hearted as she
seemed in her angriest moments. She even softened toward her
soon-to-be-ex-husband. At the end of July, Andrew was arrested at
their Vermont vacation home, charged with fraud in three states. (The
Manhattan district attorney, alerted to the fraud at East 74th Street,
would soon indict him as well.) Whatever Hayley thought of Andrew, she
drove to Vermont for his bail hearing. “She had his jail keys in her
hand,” says Russell, Andrew’s lawyer. “All she had to do was say he
couldn’t live at home.” Yes, he deserved what he was getting, Hayley
believed. And, yes, he was a bully, and she was divorcing him. “Andrew
had nobody else,” Hayley told a friend. And there were the kids.
“Letting him have access to his children was all he was going to have
for a long time and all they were going to have for a long time.” She
agreed to let Andrew return to Greenwich. Hayley was headed back to
work. Andrew could help babysit.
For Andrew, his arrest was crushing; unlike his
previous brush with fraud, there was nowhere to run. He was confined
to the house by an electronic ankle monitor. Bill heard of Andrew’s
arrest at Rob’s murder trial. He didn’t seem entirely surprised. “They
were two different souls, Robert and Andrew,” he says.
Whatever the state of Andrew’s soul, at that point,
the rest of him was, as his lawyer put it, “in extremis. It was
mental, physical, financial. He really needed help.” He needed to get
into a rehab program, and he needed funds. Turning to Bill was out of
the question. “I don’t have anything to do with my father,” Andrew
told his lawyer, “and I don’t want to.”
Andrew appealed to Jane, his once-devoted sister.
But Jane’s priorities had shifted. She now believed the situation with
Rob’s children required emergency action. What must Andrew’s household
be like! Hayley was running off to court to seize Andrew’s assets.
Andrew, in turn, was demanding that Hayley pay him alimony. Then were
they sitting down to a family dinner? And still Andrew and Hayley
wouldn’t give up Rob’s kids. Jane felt she had to do something. “She
was their guardian angel,” her lawyer Randy Mastro says. Jane’s funds
were allocated elsewhere, was the message Andrew received.
In September, Jane moved aggressively in a New York
court and also publicly. She spoke to a New York Times
reporter, quoting from a couple of her conversations with Hayley.
Andrew was furious. Somehow, appearances still
mattered to him. Unusually, he seemed protective of Hayley. Andrew
called his sister the day after the Times story. “Jane, it’s
your ex-brother,” said Andrew, according to a transcript of a phone
message obtained by New York Magazine. “You’ve managed to do
what Dad has tried to do for 75 years: tear this family apart. You’ve
done that. And we’re going to bury you, Jane.”
Apparently, Andrew and Hayley were united on this
point. Hayley left Jane a message the same day: “The betrayal I have
gotten from you is of a magnitude that I never thought possible. But
obviously I underestimated you.”
To Hayley, Bill and Jane seemed like “evil twins”—a
phrase that Andrew used. She left a blistering message on Bill’s voice
mail, according to a transcript of the call. “You’re an evil man, and
I would say that you’ll get what you deserve,” said Hayley as if
putting a curse on Bill. Then she realized there was no need. “Well,
you already got what you deserve,” she said.
At the custody hearings, everyone was lawyered
up—Jane, Ira, Hayley. The estate had a lawyer, the kids had a lawyer.
The judge even assigned counsel to represent Nancy, despite the fact
that on September 1, she’d been convicted of Rob’s murder. From
prison, Nancy handwrote a five-page plea. The battle against the
Kissels, carried on via the children, seemed to count for everything.
Nancy had never liked Hayley, but now she wrote, “I have been
overwhelmed by Hayley’s unconditional love, support and her
exceptional skills as a devoted mother.” Jane, she suggested, was
after the money from the estate.
It was an ugly and useless public airing, as
Michael Collesano, the clearheaded lawyer for the children, says. From
the start, it was a foregone conclusion that the kids would go to
Jane, says Collesano. Ira opposed it. He was sure that Hayley had been
a terrific mother, and he wasn’t sure of Jane. “Just because Andrew’s
going to jail, why are you presupposing that they’re in a negative
environment?” he asked. “Even when Andrew was on a bracelet, he was
interacting with the kids. It wasn’t like it was a household in
The judge wasn’t swayed, especially since Hayley
wasn’t fighting for the children: “Whatever’s best” had become her
attitude. Soon, the kids headed west to Washington. Jane had turned
her life upside down to accommodate Rob’s children. That included
spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, which she
hoped Rob’s estate would cover. That decision, though, depended on the
consent of Ira, co-executor of Rob’s will.
By the end of March 2006, Andrew knew that the
following week, he would plead guilty to all charges. He faced a
minimum of eight years in prison. Creditors were piling on. After
Hayley filed for divorce, Parisier, the banks, the title companies all
came after Andrew. His car collection was liquidated. Even his watches
were sold. His Greenwich life, the one of quick trips to Canyon Ranch
and getting loaded on the boat, was gone forever. The only time Andrew
left home was to drive the kids to school, and he’d had to petition
the court for permission to do that. “I’m ruined,” he told a visitor.
Months earlier, Andrew had stopped paying rent, and
Hayley had to go to court to settle the matter. She agreed to vacate
the premises by the end of the month.
Movers showed up Saturday, April 1. Hayley had left
the day before, and planned to put their possessions in storage. When
the movers arrived, Andrew was still there. Hayley came, and there was
an argument. Andrew didn’t have anywhere to go. Hayley had one more
bit of patience. She agreed to leave a bedroom set until Monday.
On Sunday evening, April 2, Carlos Trujillo,
Andrew’s driver and all-around helper, his last remaining employee,
showed up at the house at about 6 p.m. The next morning, when the
movers returned, Andrew’s body was discovered in the basement. He was
bound and stabbed in the back, his T-shirt pulled over his head.
Andrew’s funeral was a small one near his hometown
in New Jersey. He was buried with Rob. Just over a dozen people were
there, including Jane and Bill, their friends and supporters. None of
Andrew’s friends showed up. Hayley, at the request of the Kissels,
agreed to stay away, the family feud lasting into the grave.
The Greenwich Police Department initially reported
that Hayley was fully cooperating with its investigation; later, the
chief said that she had stopped. The investigation, though, seemed to
focus on Trujillo, a Colombian immigrant who claimed, as his lawyer
put it, that Andrew was like a father to him. (Andrew was notoriously
generous with employees.) The police noted that there’d been no sign
of forced entry and thus suggested that Andrew knew his killer. One
theory at work was that Andrew, in a final act of selflessness, had
committed suicide by murder. Perhaps with Trujillo’s help.
Certainly, Andrew had been distraught. Hayley had
even called Bill, left a message that last weekend. Bill had been
trying to call for a week, but no one picked up. Andrew’s intent,
according to the suicide-by-murder theory, was to die without killing
himself. If he was murdered, then his children could inherit his
insurance policy, which presumably was void if he committed suicide.
If true, it was an extraordinary act of generosity.
Maybe it was a last attempt at making amends or pleasing his family.
Bill, for one, doesn’t buy the suicide theory. “That’s preposterous,”
he says. To him, stabbing someone in the back means one thing. “It had
to be someone who was incredibly angry,” he says. Bill thought of
Hayley and her side of the family. “You can’t rule it out,” he says.
Of course, many people had reason to be angry with
Andrew. “He was a bad boy,” says Bill, and maybe, Bill thinks, a sick
boy. Bill’s tone seems at times forgiving, at times defensive. It is a
defense of Rob, who’d been so good, especially, perhaps, in
retrospect, and who’d lately been tarred with the same brush as
Andrew. Bill’s two sons both had wives who hated them, and both were
murdered before they were 50. “You must not compare the two.” Bill
bristles. “You will be doing Robert’s children a tremendous
disservice.” Bill isn’t in touch with Andrew’s children.
To Bill, Andrew’s death seemed a kind of
incrementalism. They’d been out of touch for so long. Occasionally, he
forgot that Andrew was dead. It was for a split second but perhaps
long enough for him to imagine that their troubled relationship was
retrievable. “He was my son,” Bill says of Andrew. Not that he could
quite forgive him his flaws. “Andrew wanted to be a winner,” he says.
It sounds like an epitaph, an unhappy one.
Sometimes these days, all the trouble seems too
much for Bill. And, of course, there’s more to come, perhaps even
another murder trial for Bill to attend. It can lead Bill to awful
thoughts. “Suppose, just suppose, I were to say I’ve had enough and
end it all?” he occasionally thinks. He breaks down. He cries. But
then, no. Bill is more of a fighter than that. Plus he knows it’s not
the right thing to do. Not for himself. And not for the grandchildren.
“What kind of heritage would that leave for these children?” he says.
“The children have to survive."
The murder of Andrew Kissel
By Anthony Bruno
The moving men were not pleased as they sat in
their truck, waiting. It was after 8:00 AM on Monday, April 3, 2006,
and the front gate of the mock-Tudor mansion at 10 Dairy Road in
ultra-rich Greenwich, Connecticut, was locked. They'd rung the bell
several times, but no one answered. The foreman was particularly
annoyed because this had been an unusual rush job. The lady of the
house, Hayley Wolff Kissel, had called the previous Friday to get a
crew to empty out the place and store the contents for a week or so
until she figured out where to put it.
Two days earlier moving crews from J.B. Moving in
Stamford, Connecticut, filled three vans with furniture, clothing, and
other belongings. They would have finished the job if Mrs. Kissel's
husband, Andrew Kissel, hadn't insisted on staying for the weekend.
The couple was in the process of divorcing, and it was obviously not
an amicable parting. After a nasty argument that some of the movers
had witnessed, Hayley Kissel relented and agreed to let Andrew stay
for the weekend. These were his last few days of freedom, after all.
He was scheduled to appear in federal court the next week to plead
guilty to widespread fraud charges. His next address would be a
federal penitentiary, so he wanted to spend what time he had left in
posh surroundings. The movers were asked to come back on Monday
morning for the bedroom set, which Andrew would be using, and the last
of the Kissels' belongings.
The movers were now eager to get this job finished,
hoping they wouldn't have to see any more of the Kissels' bickering.
Frustrated that they couldn't get into the house, they called their
boss, Doug Roina, the manager of J.B. Moving. Roina called Hayley
Kissel to explain the situation, and she gave him the code that would
unlock the gate, which Roina passed on to the men on the job.
The moving men opened the gate and backed their
truck up to the front door. They rang the doorbell and knocked, but no
one answered. One of them tried the door and found that it was
unlocked. The men let themselves in and got to work, dismantling the
bed and loading up the last of the furniture.
One of the men went down to the basement to see if
there was anything left to move down there. What he found turned his
A man sat slumped forward in a chair, hands and
feet bound. His t-shirt was pulled up over his head, covering his
face. He was covered in blood, and it had spread onto the floor around
him. There was blood everywhere.
The movers immediately called the police who later
identified the dead man. It was Andrew Kissel.
Andrew Kissel had plenty of enemies, as the
Greenwich police would soon discover, people with sufficient motive to
kill him or have him killed.
Among the many people he had wronged were the
residents of 200 East 74th Street, a high-rise luxury apartment on the
Upper East Side of Manhattan. From 1995 to 2002 Andrew Kissel had been
the treasurer of the building's co-op board. During that time he had
an unusual degree of autonomy and had sole signing authority over the
co-op's bank account. He had spearheaded a $12 million refinancing
effort that allowed the co-op's owners to buy the land the building
was built on in 1962 and dissolve the land lease that could someday
imperil the value of their apartments. The New York Times wrote that
the reason for taking this huge loan was financially sound, but
putting Andrew Kissel in charge of it was not.
This refinancing plan included setting up a reserve
fund of $802,000 for contingencies, which is normal for such an
undertaking. What wasn't normal was that Andrew Kissel siphoned money
out of this account and into his own personal accounts.
During his tenure on the board, Kissel also oversaw
the renovation of the building's lobby and hallways in 2001. The final
bill came to over a million dollars, "four times what the neighbors
had been told it would cost," according to the New York Times. One
resident estimated that it cost them "$50,000 a floor" for paint,
wallpaper, and carpeting in just the hallways. A forensic audit later
revealed that six-figure payments were made to vendors suspected of
being under Kissel's control. According to New York magazine, Kissel
started a line of credit for the building, "forged signatures,
cut-and-pasted bank statements, and eventually borrowed $2 million
under the co-op's name."
During this period Kissel had also renovated his
own apartment, purchasing two studio apartments adjacent to his
one-bedroom unit and combining them to create a deluxe duplex. Records
show that he had paid $295,000 for the one-bedroom apartment in 1992,
then paid $160,000 and $350,000 for the two studios. He eventually
sold the duplex for nearly $3 million.
All told, Kissel managed to embezzle $3.9 million
from the building during his time on the co-op board. The board
eventually discovered what he had done and confronted him with it.
Kissel confessed to his misdeeds and agreed to pay the board $4.7
million if they promised not to pursue the matter in court. In October
2003 Kissel paid the settlement money, confident that the matter had
been resolved and the board would not go public.
A Financial Juggling Act
Kissel moved out of the co-op in Manhattan and
relocated to Greenwich, Connecticut, where he was building his dream
house, a custom-built mansion at 58 Quaker Lane. A childhood friend
told The Advocate of Stamford, Connecticut, that as a boy, Andrew
Kissel loved model cars: "He would put together... hundreds of them...
meticulously paint them and detail them with little stripes." Kissel
never outgrew his passion for cars, and at the time of his death he
owned 30 vintage automobiles, including four Ferraris and a customized
Mercedes station wagon, a collection worth millions. He also owned a
75-foot Hatteras yacht worth $2.85 million, according to
Bloomberg.com. Kissel had an insatiable lust for luxury toys, and he
rarely denied himself. Of course, he didn't have the income to support
his lavish wants, but that didn't stop him. He had learned that money
was always available if a person knew how to work the system.
Kissel's childhood friend remembered him as being
aloof and "kind of stuck up" when he was a boy. He was "shy" and
"often avoided eye contact." As an adult, his personality problems
were compounded by drug and alcohol abuse. Court papers revealed that
he had been "diagnosed with alcohol dependence, bipolar disorder,
cocaine abuse, impulse control disorder, post-traumatic stress
disorder and anti-social personality disorder," according to The
Advocate. Perhaps it was this combination of personal problems and
addictions that led him to bilk millions of dollars from investors,
family members, banks, and other lending institutions.
"Andrew took money from everyone possible," his
father William Kissel, told the New York Times. "From his
father-in-law, from friends, from [his brother] Robert, from
everybody, and they're all holding the bag."
Andrew had founded a real-estate development
company called Hanrock with offices in Stamford. The name Hanrock was
derived from the first initials of his wife Hayley, himself, his
sister-in-law Nancy, and his brother Robert. According to New York,
when a notary public who worked for Hanrock left the company, Kissel
managed to get her stamp and used it to file false mortgage releases
on real-estate properties in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Vermont. The
New York Times wrote that Kissel "claimed that old lenders had
relinquished claims on the properties and tricked new lenders to make
fresh loans on them without proper collateral." With fraudulently
borrowed money, Kissel was able to maintain his lavish lifestyle. But
when his financial juggling act was finally exposed, his many
creditors were furious, and every one of them is now a possible
suspect in his murderexcept for one investor, his brother Robert.
Three years before Andrew's death, Robert Kissel
had also been murdered.
The Milkshake Murder
On November 6, 2003, Robert Kissel's body was found
wrapped in an oriental rug in the basement of a Hong Kong residential
high-rise, his head bloody from blunt-force trauma. A subsequent
autopsy found several prescription medications in his system,
including Rohypnol, the date rape drug. His wife, Nancy Kissel, had
previously received prescriptions for those same medications from two
separate doctors. She was later charged with her husband's murder,
accused of sedating him with a pink milkshake containing enough
medication to render him defenseless, then beating him to death with a
The local press dubbed it the "Milkshake Murder,"
and Nancy Kissel's trial riveted Hong Kong and much of East Asia
during the summer of 2005. Thin, pale, and drawn, Nancy Kissel
appeared in court every day dressed in black. She was almost
unrecognizable to her friends and acquaintances who remembered a more
stylish woman, well-dressed with dyed blond hair, the wife of a
high-flying international investment banker. Like the wives of many
other ex-patriot businessmen in Hong Kong, she had a lot of money and
a lot of time on her hands. Investigators discovered that she also had
a boyfriend in America, a TV repairman she had met when she and her
three children had fled to the family's Vermont vacation home during
the SARS epidemic in 2003. Hong Kong prosecutors accused her of
killing her husband so that she'd be free to be with her lover.
But Nancy Kissel claimed that she was the real
victim, beaten and abused by a short-tempered husband who constantly
demanded anal sex. At her trial she took the stand and admitted that
she had hit him with the figurine, but only in self-defense as he was
attacking her. When questioned about the details of the events of that
day, she claimed to have only partial memory of what had happened.
The mostly male jury didn't buy her story and
convicted her of murder, giving her a life sentence at a Hong Kong
correctional facility. American officials declined to intervene in her
case. American courts did, however, take an interest in the welfare of
Nancy and Robert's three young children: Elaine, June, and Reis.
First, Nancy's father, then her half-brother, attempted to raise the
children, but when the task proved to be too much for them, Andrew and
Hayley Kissel made their case for custody to Stamford Superior Court
and were granted temporary guardianship of the children who stood to
inherit their father's $18 million estate. After her conviction, Nancy
Kissel had written a letter to the court, stating that she wished to
have her children cared for by Hayley Kissel.
Andrew arranged to pick up the children from
Nancy's half-brother in Cincinnati. He chartered a private Marquis jet
and billed Robert's estate for the $8,000 fee, New York reported. When
he saw that his dining room table wouldn't accommodate five children
and two adults comfortably, he bought a bigger one for $6,000 and
billed his brother's estate for 30% of the cost. He eventually
submitted a bill of $171,000 to the estate.
But marital tensions between Andrew and Hayley
threatened their vision of a happy conjoined family. Hayley wanted a
divorce, but she still wanted to care for Robert and Nancy's children.
Her intention was to raise them by herself along with her own two
daughters. But in the fall of 2005, Andrew's sister, Jane Kissel
Clayton of Mercer Island, Washington, challenged that arrangement and
was granted custody of Robert's children. If Andrew had ever dreamed
of having access to his nieces' and nephew's inheritance, that
possibility was now beyond his reach.
"God I Hate Your Brother"
In almost all murder cases, the spouse of the
victim is automatically considered a person of interest, and in the
case of Andrew Kissel's murder, his estranged wife did little to hide
her animosity toward him. By the time Hayley Kissel had filed for
divorce in early 2005, she was totally fed up with him. The moving men
who had overheard the Kissels' heated argument days before the murder
could attest to her feelings about Andrew. The fact that she had gone
to court to remove him from the rented house just a few days before he
would be going away to prison shows just how bitter she was. As Andrew
Kissel's divorce lawyer, Howard Garber, told The Advocate, "By the
time the motion was heard, she would have, at best, had possession of
the home for three or four days."
In a revealing email message that Hayley Kissel had
sent to her sister-in-law, Jane, on May 22, 2005, Hayley vented her
frustrations. "GOD I HATE YOUR BROTHER," the message began.
Despite their haggling over Robert's children,
Hayley considered Jane her confidante. Hayley, who had once been a
mogul skiing champion, had been Jane's skiing coach in Vermont when
she was a girl. Andrew, Robert, and Jane loved to ski when they were
kids, and Andrew's father had bought a vacation home in Stratton
Mountain, Vermont, to accommodate their passion for the slopes. Jane
had introduced Andrew to Hayley when she was taking lessons. Jane and
Hayley had remained close over the years.
In that same email Hayley wrote to Jane, "Do you
know last night in bed, I could actually see myself pummeling him to
death and just enjoying the sensation of each and every shot and then
this morning as I pulled out of the garage... all I wanted to do was
crash into his Ferraris."
She was particularly irked by a pole that Andrew
had installed in the garage to protect his precious vintage cars. "Do
you know that I intentionally bang into the thing every time I park in
the garage as an act of defiance?" she wrote.
In the email she characterized her husband as "an
awful awful pathetic person."
But despite evidence of her hatred for her husband,
authorities have not pursued Hayley Kissel as a suspect. The
circumstances of his death are not consistent with a crime of
passion.� The murder appears to have been planned rather than a
"Who would do a thing like this so brutally?"
Andrew's father, William Kissel, told The Advocate. "Somebody had to
be very angry at him. If somebody wanted to kill him they had to put a
bullet in his head, not tie him up and stab him to death with a shirt
over his head."
With no signs of forced entry at the house, the
possibility of a robbery gone wrong has been ruled out. Andrew Kissel
must have known his killers and let them in. Greenwich Police Chief
James Walters says that Andrew was "the intended target of the
Professor Larry Kobolinsky of John Jay College of
Criminal Justice says that Kissel's murder "bears the hallmarks of a
personal vendetta." He told The Advocate that the killer or killers
were either "seeking information" or trying to "teach him a long
Former Stamford detective Vito Colucci told The
Advocate that Andrew Kissel's murder is "not your typical contract
killing where you give a guy a shot." He suggested that one of
Kissel's enemies might have hired a hit man to make him suffer in
death as punishment.
The police have explored the possibility that
Kissel arranged his own death so that his children would be provided
for. Like his brother, Andrew had a sizeable insurance policy, and in
the event of his death, his daughters stood to collect $15 million.
But the policy would be invalidated if he committed suicide, so his
death would have to appear to have been a murder. Following the
suicide-by-murder theory, the police questioned a man named Carlos
Trujillo, a Colombian immigrant who worked for Kissel.
For nearly seven years, Trujillo had been Kissel's
loyal man Friday, acting as chauffeur, babysitter, and housekeeper for
the family. The two men had developed a close friendship, and Trujillo
admitted that he had gone to the house the weekend that Kissel was
murdered out of concern for his friend. Is it possible that Kissel had
asked Trujillo to kill him, and Trujillo had carried out the request?
Trujillo willingly agreed to give the police his
fingerprints and DNA samples. He also let them search his home and
took a lie detector test without the advice of counsel. But when they
questioned him a second time "in an aggressive manner," as the New
York Times reported, Trujillo decided that he needed a lawyer.
Trujillo's attorney, Lindy Urso, professes his
client's innocence and suggests that Andrew Kissel was about to become
"an informant for the federal government," which, according to the
Times, would have made him the target of "dozens of people."
Is it possible that Andrew Kissel was killed
because someone feared that he was about to cooperate with the
government and offer up incriminating testimony against that person in
exchange for leniency in his sentencing? Exactly who that person might
be remains uncertain, and law enforcement has not floated that theory
to the public.
The police obtained a warrant to search a storage
locker in Bridgeport, Connecticut, rented by Trujillo. Among the
specific items they were looking for were uncashed checks made out to
Trujillo by Betteridge Jewelers in Greenwich. Trujillo had sold
jewelry for Andrew Kissel at that store in the past, and the police
are exploring the possibility that Kissel had paid for his
murder-suicide with jewelry, which Trujillo then sold.
But if Kissel had arranged his own death, would he
have really wanted such a painful, bloody end for himself? Wouldn't a
quick gunshot to the head have been a preferable method?
"I think the suicide-by-murder theory is absurd,"
Lindy Urso told The Advocate, "particularly when you consider the
manner in which he was killed."
The police continue to investigate Trujillo. But if
he didn't kill Andrew Kissel, and Hayley Kissel didn't do it, as the
police apparently believe since they aren't investigating her, then
who did kill him? And why?
On April 7, 2006, Andrew Kissel was buried in
Saddle River, New Jersey, next to his mother and brother, Robert.
Andrew's father and sister attended the funeral services, but the
family asked his wife, Hayley, not to come. Hayley Kissel's attorney,
Joseph W. Martini, said that she planned to make "other appropriate
arrangements so that her children can say goodbye to their father."
Friends and associates remember Andrew as a
difficult and troubled individual. Michael Assael, a co-op owner at
200 E. 74th Street, remembers Kissel often pacing outside the
building, "chomping on a cigar." In conversation, Andrew would
sometimes use big words incorrectly, according to Assael. "He always
seemed to try to impress you by show," Assael told The Advocate. "He
didn't seem to have a lot of depth."
Though Andrew got along well with his brother, some
feel that Andrew struggled to keep up with Robert's accomplishments.
From the time they were boys, Robert seemed to excel without really
trying while Andrew, who was very intelligent, just couldn't figure
out how to apply himself. Unlike Robert, Andrew was introverted and
impatient. He also believed that a person was defined by his
possessions, and he always had to have the best. When the brothers
were teenagers, their father had given them both credit cards. Robert
used his to buy "a pair of cheap shoes from Sears" while Andrew bought
himself an extravagant fur jacket. An ex-girlfriend told New York,
"His self-esteem came from what he had around him."
Perhaps it was this lust for status through
acquisition that undid Andrew Kissel. Cars, yachts, houses, real
estate, even his brother's childrenhe had to have it all, no matter
who got hurt. His death might have been pay-back from someone he had
wronged. Or perhaps it was his last desperate attempt at big-ticket
acquisition, a suicide concealed as a murder in order to obtain a
jumbo insurance payout for his children. The murder of Andrew Kissel
remains a puzzle as the police continue to investigate.