Murder of Robert Kissel
The Nancy Kissel murder case (officially called the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region v Nancy Ann Kissel) was a highly publicised criminal trial held in the High Court of Hong Kong, where Nancy Kissel (née Keeshin) was convicted of the murder of her husband, investment banker Robert, in their apartment on 2 November 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 possibly the highest profile murder of an expatriate in Hong Kong's history, together with the Braemar Hill murders and the trial was closely covered in the media. Kissel was convicted of murder in 2005 and received a mandatory life sentence. The Court of Final Appeal overturned the conviction in February 2010, citing legal errors, and ordered a retrial. The retrial began on 12 January 2011 and, on 25 March 2011, she was again found guilty of her husband's murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Robert Kissel's brother Andrew, a former American real estate developer, was found murdered on 3 April 2006 in Greenwich, Connecticut, USA.
On a return trip to the United States in mid-2003, Nancy met and had an affair with Michael Del Priore, a 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 the spyware eBlaster 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 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 Parkview complex.
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 abuse.
The trial began in June 2005 at Hong Kong's High Court with the prosecution alleging that she murdered her husband; she pleaded 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 Scotch single malt whisky 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, on 1 September 2005 the jury of five men and two women unanimously decided on her guilt after eight hours of deliberation. Kissel was sentenced to life in prison,
She appealed her conviction in April 2008. That petition was rejected. Kissel then lodged an appeal with the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong on 12 January 2010. The case was heard before a five-judge panel led by then-Chief Justice Andrew Li on 21 January. The defense argued that the prosecution had improperly used evidence, including hearsay, and that the original jury instructions were problematic. On 11 February 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.
According to the defense, Robert Kissel told his wife on the night of 2 November 2003, that he was filing for divorce, saying that the decision was final, and that she was unfit to care for their children. The defense also alleged she had long suffered from physical and sexual abuse. 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 the 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 25 March 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.
On 24 April 2014, the Court of Final Appeal refused to allow an appeal against the verdict of her 2011 retrial, rejecting the arguments of Kissel's lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, that the prosecution was wrong to tell the retrial's jury that his client was not suffering any psychiatric illness and that the trial judge had erred in directing the jury.
"We are not persuaded that the two grounds submitted by the applicant are arguable," Justice Roberto Ribeiro said. He said that he and the court's two other judges, Justice Robert Tang Ching and Justice Joseph Fok, would hand down the reason for their decision later. A new book on this case is due in September 2016, The Dew of Heaven published by Cactus Books, Tempe, Arizona.
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