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The Milkshake Murder: Nancy Kissel (born Nancy Keeshin circa 1964 in Adrian, Michigan) was convicted of the murder of her husband, Robert Kissel in their apartment in Tai Tam, Hong Kong on November 2, 2003.
Robert Kissel was an investment banker who worked for Merrill Lynch. Nancy Kissel was prominent in the community and frequently helped out at the Hong Kong International School, which her two daughters attended. She was vice-president of the school’s parent-teacher board. The case is arguably the highest-profile murder of an expatriate in Hong Kong’s history, and the court hearing was packed.
Kissel dropped out of the Parsons School of Design after two years. She had already worked as the floor manager of the Caliente Cab Company, a Mexican restaurant on Waverly Place in New York City, and had switched to the El Rio Grande on 38th Street. She also was general manager of Docks Restaurant on Broadway in Manhattan.
Robert and Nancy Kissel married at the East River Yacht Club in New York in the United States in 1989 and arrived in Hong Kong in 1997 with their three children. They resided at the Hong Kong Parkview.
Robert was a vice president in Goldman Sachs‘ Asian special situations group. Merrill Lynch hired him from Goldman in 2000 to head the business of its distressed assets in Asia outside Japan.
On a return trip to the United States in mid-2003, Kissel met and had an affair with Michael Del Priore, the twice-married electrical repairman who had rewired the Kissel home in Vermont. She had apparently given him an expensive gold watch. It was suggested that Del Priore may have aided and abetted, or tacitly encouraged her. Kissel made 52 calls to him in September, and 106 calls in October. On one day, she is said to have made seven calls to him both before and after her meeting with the doctor. They remained in frequent telephone communication during the days immediately following the murder.
Robert was suspicious of Kissel’s infidelity and had hired a New York private detectives to spy on his wife. Robert also had spyware secretly installed on Kissel’s laptop. It recorded that on August 28, 2003, she made an Internet search for “sleeping pills,” “Overdose medication causing a heart attack,” and “drug overdose,” the prosecution later said. On October 23, she made a search for “Rohypnol.” Robert apparently confided in a colleague, David Noh, that his life might be in danger.
Psychiatric expert Dr. Desmond Fung, testified that she had visited him on August 29 and again on October 30, and had obtained prescriptions of tranquilizers.
She claimed to have had some violent disagreements with her husband, but to have no memories of the death of her husband.
The autopsy found flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), zolpidem, Butalbital, lorazepam and amitriptyline, among the contents of his stomach. Five contusions on his skull were given as the cause of death. The prosecution alleged that she drugged Robert with a strawberry milkshake heavily dosed prescription medication, that she gave to her youngest child to give to him, and then clubbed him to death with a heavy statue once he was rendered passive.
In the days following his death, Nancy visited doctors with bruises and other injuries probably sustained during the murder, and also claimed dissociative amnesia from November 1, 2003.
She also created a charade in order to cover up the murder. Between November 3 and 6, she purchased new bedsheets to replace the blood-stained linen and bought nylon rope and carton boxes to pack away incriminating items. Robert’s corpse was then rolled up in an oriental rug and tied with rope and sealed with clear adhesive tape. Kissel packed boxes full of bloodstained items, had the storeroom at the apartment complex cleaned out. Nancy then called the management office to have the rug moved into their storeroom.
Kissel gave conflicting accounts to her father, maids and friends about the whereabouts of Robert. On November 6, she went to the police station with her father to report her husband’s assault on her on the night of November 2.
Some hours after she had filed the assault claim after Robert had missed a conference call, the colleague to whom Robert had confided his concerns filed a missing person report on Robert Kissel. In the early hours of November 7, 2003, police investigators discovered the decomposing remains in the storeroom.
Police officers who conducted the search of the Kissel apartment on November 8, discovered four boxes containing blood-stained bedding, tissues, pillows, and the clothing belonging to both Robert and Nancy. The fingerprints of Kissel were found on the tape used to seal the boxes.
In her testimony, she offered that her husband claimed to have initiated proceedings for divorce and for the custody of their children. The prosecution alleged that divorce was not an option for Kissel, who was the primary beneficiary in Robert’s will, his estate was estimated at US$18 million, including stocks, cash, real estate, and life insurance policies.
Kissel admitted to killing her husband, claiming that she had been in an unhappy marriage and the victim of domestic violence, rape, and sodomy from her husband 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 use since going on an MBA course. Her allegation that Robert had broken the arm of one of their daughters was contradicted by the domestic helper who witnessed the accident causing the fracture.
The case was brought before Mr Justice Michael Lunn at Hong Kong’s High Court. At the end of the trial lasting 65 days, the jury of five men and two women decided unanimously on her guilt after 8 hours of deliberations. On September 1, 2005, with Kissel standing before him, Mr Justice Lunn pronounced
“ As I am required to do so by law, I impose a sentence of life imprisonment upon you. ”
The appeal against her conviction began on 14 April 2008.
In April of 2006, Robert’s brother, Andrew, who had been granted temporary custody of the Kissel’s three children (Reis aged 5, June aged 8, and Elaine aged 11 at the time), was found stabbed to death in the basement of his rented mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut. He was being indicted for fraud involving real estate in April 2005. A family chauffeur and the chauffeur’s cousin had been arrested and charged with the death of Andrew Kissel. The children were then placed in the custody of Robert and Andrew’s sister, Jane Kissel Clayton, who filed a wrongful death suit on behalf of the children.