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Nancy Kissel and The Milkshake Murder of Her Husband Robert Kissel in Hong Kong
When Nancy Keeshin met Robert Kissel in 1987, it was love at first sight. She always knew she and Robert would marry, and indeed they did just two years later in 1989.
Robert was a very ambitious young man who had set his goals on being a high profile stock investor. Wanting her husband to realize his dream, and knowing it would mean a luxury lifestyle for her as well, Nancy put her own career on hold as Robert continued his education to obtain a master's degree in finance.
Life was going well for the Kissels. They soon had three children and Robert was making millions working for some of the top investment firms in New York.
It would not seem there could be more that the happy, financially successful family could ask for.
In 2000, Robert was hired by Wall Street giant Merrill Lynch as a manager of global investments in Hong Kong. Initially Nancy viewed the move as an adventure, a chance to live another country and experience a different culture.
Later she would grow to hate the filthy city and the isolation being American created from the society as a whole. Nancy was homesick. She wanted to be in America, but Robert disagreed.
There seemed to be only one way for Nancy to return home, with her children, and still live the luxury lifestyle to which she had grown accustomed.
That one way was murder.
Life In Hong Kong
There are thousands of expats living in Hong Kong. Most of them are working men who have drug their wives and children along for the ride. While working ungodly hours, their wives are left to tend to the children and home; to make friends with other expatriates and try to live an American life in a foreign place.
Robert and Nancy was just one of these couples, but their lives were identical to the others. The Kissels lived in a luxury high rise built solely to house the American. While Robert worked around the clock, Nancy lived the life of what the Chinese call a tai tai - rough translated: spoiled rich wife.
Just like the other American wives, Nancy spent her days alone except for the hired help of local women or when she was volunteering at the Hong Kong International School where the children were taught American subjects. And sometimes the family would attend Synagogue. Sometimes Nancy would venture into the real Hong Kong, but not frequently because she was disgusted at the locals indiscreet bathroom hygeine and was weary of the looks she received while walking the streets or riding the bus.
It was a lonely, depressing existence in and of itself, but to add the volatile moods of a husband made the life unbearable.
Because of the extremely demanding hours, Robert had began using cocaine to keep himself awake and energetic. Soon he began adding alcohol to the drugs. A volatile combination became a conduit for physical and mental abuse toward Nancy. If Robert wasn't knocking her around, he was taunting her by telling her she was fat, that her breasts were sagging, and she was no long attractive.
Nancy worked hard at maintaining the perfect appearance. That was what all the tai tai did. The women didn't discuss their problems with one another, instead they accepted them as part of wealthy man's wife.
The winter of 2003 brought with it the deadly SARS virus. As the world, especially the Chinese, watched in fear as SARS continued to kill those inflicted, Nancy would find it a welcome reprieve.
The American women and children were leaving Hong Kong in droves. Nancy and her children were among them, headed for the Kissels vacation home near Stratton Mountain, Vermont.
Wives watched the continuous television reports as SARS spread and feared for the husbands safety. There seemed to be indication the danger would soon pass.
Nancy decided to purchase a home theater system for the Vermont house. The man who came to install it was Michael Del Priore. Little could Nancy know he was a simple man who would bring complicated changes to her life.
As Del Priore went about the business of installing the theater system, he and Nancy talked. As they talked, Del Priore told Nancy she often wore the same downtrodden look his mother, who was abused by his alcoholic father, always had. Nancy admitted that she was in the same situation.
Nancy found more than just a shoulder to cry on in Del Piore. Soon the two were knee-deep in a steamy affair and Nancy lavished her tender lover with expensive gifts. She even got a tattoo at Del Priore's urging; something Robert had always forbade her to do.
What Nancy did not know was that Robert came to suspect that she was cheating on him while in the states and hired the services of private investigator to confirm his suspicions. It didn't take much for the hired gumshoe to gather evidence of an affair.
In July 2003, the SARS virus had seemed contained and Nancy and the children had to return to Hong Kong. It didn't mean the end of an affair with Del Priore, however, and the two remained in constant contact by telephone and email.
Upon returning to Hong Kong, Nancy was met with a still drinking, still coking Robert who was now very obsessive. And while he was controlling before, as is typically the nature of financial gurus, he was even more so now; watching Nancy's every move, constantly asking about who she had spent time with while he was away, and where she had been. The physical abuse became more frequent and more violent.
Nancy had felt such freedom, so much love from Del Priore during her time in Vermont and she didn't want to let go of those good feelings, so she obtained a separate, secret cell phone in order to maintain the contact. But she didn't know that Robert had hire a private investigator in Hong Kong to install spyware software on the family computer that was also tracking her emails and internet usage.
For Nancy, the noose was tightening. The question was, "Whose neck was the noose around?"
The Milkshake Murder
Nancy would later claim she had contemplated suicide as a way out, but she didn't want her children to know it was suicide and grow up feeling abandoned - as she had when her own mother left her when she was a young girl.
In Hong Kong, she visited several doctors and was able to obtain five prescriptions that included: the "date rape drug" Rohypnol; the painkiller Dextropropoxythene; the sedative Lorivan; the antidepressant Amitryptaline; and the sleeping pill Stilnox.
Soon afterwards, Robert contacted the Vermont P.I. and told him he suspected Nancy of poisoning his nightly scotches. The investigator asked Kissel to send him a sample of the drinks, but later testified that Robert never did.
On Sunday, Nov. 2, 2003, Andrew Tanzer brought his 7-year-old daughter to the Kissels' apartment for a play date. The Tanzers were also expatriates who lived in the same apartment complex.
As the Kissel children played, Tanzer requested a glass of water. Instead, his daughter and one of the Kissels girls brought him and Robert each a glass of what appeared to be a homemade milkshake. Tanzer downed the drink and headed home with daughter.
Upon his arrival home, his wife noticed that his face was flushed. He complained of feeling tired and very woozy and went straight to bed. Despite intense efforts by his wife, she was unable to wake Tanzer. When he finally awoke on his own, he had an insatiable appetite. He then went back to sleep and the following morning he had very little memory of the evening before; later describing it as a type of Amnesia.
Meanwhile, back at the Kissel home, Robert too had fallen into a deep sleep; so deep it would be better described as unconsciousness. While he was unconscious, Nancy picked up an eight pound figurine and hit Robert with it five times in the head. After she had beaten him to death, she rolled his body into a large area rug and hid it for the next three days.
On November 5, a building maintenance man came to move the rug into storage. Something about the rug did not sit right with him and he decided to inspect it.
Rolled up in the rug was a body; the bludgeoned body of Robert Kissel.
It took little effort to solve the murder of Robert Kissel. With evidence that consisted of her long distance affair, the internet search history, and the testimony of Andrew Tazer, police had what they needed to charge Nancy Kissel with the murder of her husband.
Although Nancy may have living an American life, she would be facing a Chinese jury. Unlike in America where battered woman's syndrome is a (too) common defense, doing in so vastly culturally different Hong Kong could have adverse effects. Yet Nancy's attorney opted to go forward with this type of defense and implored the jury to understand Nancy's state of mind; her sense of helplessness and fear.
Nancy even took the stand to tell her side of the story. During her testimony she told of how Robert, following their visit to the Synagogue, had told he of his plans to divorce her and keep the children. She claimed Robert then started to walk away but she chased after him demanding answers. Instead of responding, she said, Robert had turned and slapped her across the face. Angry, Nancy says she pointed her finger in Robert's face; an action of hers he despised. Her testimony continued with her recounting how Robert grabbed her finger and, as she struggled to break free, she spat in his face. This enraged Robert, according to Nancy, and he drug her to the bedroom, threw her on the bed, and began having forceful sex with her. Nancy was able to break free when her struggles caused them to fall onto the floor but as she crawled away, Robert grabbed her leg and began pulling her back. In a panic, she grabbed the figurine and twisted around, swinging the decorative weapon as she turned.
Nancy thought that was the end of it. Robert sat on the edge of the bed stunned while she continued to hold the statute. But, says Nancy, Robert gathered himself, grabbed a metal bat, and began swinging it at Nancy's head; the figurine was now being used as a shield.
Then, according to Nancy's testimony, everything went blank. She does not recall hitting Robert four more times with the heavy object, purchasing the rug, rolling him in it, or even calling for maintenance to move it to storage. Homicide detectives were well aware Nancy had cleaned up the crime scene, but Nancy testified she didn't recall doing so; did not even realize her husband was dead until they told her so.
The attorney's strategy failed. After prosecutors described before the jury Nancy's marital duplicity, her internet searches for the perfect combination of drugs, and her obvious efforts to hide the crime, the jurors returned a verdict of guilty.
On September 1, 2005, Nancy entered the Hong Kong correctional system.
In author Joe McGinnesses' book Never Enough, he exposed the obvious disfunctionality of the Kissel family long before Robert ever met the wife who would kill him. The patriach of the Kissel family was an overbearing, crude man named Bill Kissel.
Throughout their lives, his two sons, Robert and Andrew Kissel, had been pitted against one another and later, after they married, the old man was constantly comparing his two daughter-in-laws; Nancy was the one he hated.
After Nancy's conviction, the three Kissel children were sent to live with Nancy's father Ira A. Keeshin and his wife in Illinois. Finding it difficult to take care of their grandchildren, the couple arranged for their son to take custody of the children. Unmarried and a full time student, he was willing but Bill Kissel was not going to permit him to do so.
Shelling out untold amounts in attorneys fees, the family patriach had his only remaining son to petition the Court for custody. Well aware of her brother-in-law's penchant for cocaine and violence, Nancy filed an affidavit from Hong Kong in an effort to keep Andrew from getting custody of the kids; but it was to no avail as Andrew and his wife Hayley were granted guardianship.
In April 2006, under fire from the Feds for defrauding a New York co-op board, Andrew Kissel was found murdered outside his Greenwich home. At the time of this writing, his murder had not been solved.
For a while after his death, his wife continued on with guardianship of the children, but later turned it over to Robert's sister Jane Kissel Clayton, with whom the children continue to reside with in Washington state.
Nancy Kissel was granted a retrial that began in January 2011. Perhaps realizing that things were not going well for their clients, the defense attempted to stop the proceedings to allow their client to enter a plea. They were refused and on March 25, 2011, after ten and a half hours of deliberations, the jury returned with a verdict of guilty. Nancy Kissel returned to her cell at Tai Lam women's prison near the Chinese border to serve a mandatory life sentence.
Nancy's lawyers did not file another appeal, as of this writing. In April 2011, they filed a request for their client to be transferred to a U.S. prison under an international inmate exchange program that allows for prisoners to be incarcerated in prisons of their native country. Director of the University of Hong Kong’s Center for Comparative and Public Law Simon Young said that local authorities must state to the U.S. government the minimum time period Kissel is to serve before she can be eligible for parole in order for the transfer to be completed.
Do You Think Nancy Killed Robert In Self-Defense or Was It Cold-Blooded Murder?
© 2016 Kim Bryan