They grew up on a street out of a ‘60s family sitcom: Two New Jersey brothers Andrew and his kid brother Rob— riding bikes, playing touch football till it got dark.
They were, oblivious, thankfully, to what fate had in store for them, the Kissels.
Danny Williams, childhood friend: It’s unbelievable. It’s just like out of a movie really. It’s like a horror movie.
On drowsy days the brothers played cutthroat Monopoly, passing "Go," piling up properties, and raking in the cash.
And as grown-ups that’s what both of them became, masters of real life Monopoly—buying big properties and savoring the perks that came with rolling the dice.
They had smart marriages, splendid cars, vacation homes, even a mansion and a yacht. One brother, Rob, playing according to the rules.
Michael Paradise, Rob Kissel's college friend: He didn’t necessarily want to just earn money. He was a very humble person in many respects.
The other, Andrew, was taking shortcuts, the end always justifying the means.
Brian Howie: He never could kind of mesh the making of money with being happy. They weren’t...it was like he was chasing something.
But when it comes to tallying the winning and closing accounts, it isn’t Monopoly but another rainy day board game altogether: Clue. It better speaks to their brief lives—and deaths—so eerily similar.
Rob, in the bedroom, with a blunt object, and Andrew, in the basement with a knife.
And a story lies therein.
It’s a story of dizzying ambition that leads to Hong Kong—the smartest streets of Manhattan, and the backcountry of wealthy Connecticut.
But let’s start where it began, in that New Jersey suburb with Danny Williams, a boyhood friend who knew both brothers back when.
Danny Williams, childhood friend of Rob and Andrew Kissel: You know Andrew and Robert were two different people....
Rob, he recalled, as the better athlete, the friendlier of the pair. He was outgoing. Andrew, was a different cat altogether.
Williams: With people he was a little bit a little bit shy, I think. more shy than Robert, I think. Dennis Murphy, Dateline correspondent: Did Andy have to work a little harder at being liked or likable than Rob? Did it come more easily to Rob?Williams: Yeah, I… think that’s exactly right. I think it did come easily for Rob. he was more approachable.
Different as they were in temperament, they shared a gift for math.
Williams: I remember going to a Yankee game for example Robert, he’d bring a pad and he’d write all the stats down and he’d keep records of who who’s got the runs batted in and all that ... an you know Andy would do the same thing.
There wasn’t much doubt that the brothers would both turn to careers in business. Andy was the first out of the box with a retail car accessories shop. It was a bust.
Williams: I think he wanted it so bad. But the customers weren’t coming in, you know? I think it lasted maybe a year and a half.
Always the more cautious younger brother, Rob set out on a more conventional path to success, college, then business school...
Michael Paradise, Rob Kissel's college friend: I think Rob was more studious and understood that it took a great deal of hard work to succeed. And I think Andrew was in a rush.
College Buddy Michael Paradise says he was struck by Rob Kissel’s methodical approach to everything, studies, sports… even dating.
Paradise: He was attractive; he was funny; he was smart. He had a great future ahead of him, athletic. You can do down the list and check them off.
And the woman who would become his fiancee was a fun-loving restaurant manager from New York City: Nancy Keeshin. Rob’s college friend was there at the beginning in 1987 when Rob and Nancy—both in their 20s—met and made sparks during a Club Med vacation in the Caribbean.
Paradise: She was artistic. She was funny. She was friendly. She was outgoing. And she seemed to love Rob incredibly.
in just a few years, the handsome young couple was married and started a family in the big city — Rob, with his knack for tracking baseball stats, was a natural at the real thing: Wall Street banking. By the mid-1990s he was well into a career that would make him millions. Yet, New York neighbor Roz Lichter says Rob Kissel never lost his down to earth style.
Roz Lichter, New York neighbor: He wasn’t flamboyant. I think what he was interested in was making that career you know, going up that ladder as an investment banker.
If anything, says Roz, it was the missus who relished the perks of the job.
Lichter: Rob’s wife Nancy was really into money. Loved money. loved money.
And wasn’t afraid of flaunting it either. The New York neighbor recalls one particularly catty remark from the banker’s wife.
Lichter: One day she was wearing this great beaver coat. So I said, ‘Nancy, this is a great coat.’ And she said, ‘It is a great coat... but you’ll never be able to afford it.’Murphy: Is that what she said?Lichter: Yeah. And I said ‘What a strange thing to say to somebody.’Murphy: You’re giving her a compliment and...Lichter: Yeah.Murphy: A little upside the head.Lichter: Right.
But if Nancy could be fast with a buck and a barb, her friend says conservative Rob was also quick to wag his finger at her. Liz Lacause remembers one incident between the couple.
Elizabeth Lacause, Nancy Kissel's friend: We would just be in the neighborhood and, you know, ring the buzzer to see if they were home. And we’d go up and and walk in on them. And it was obvious that they had just had an argument.Murphy: Obvious how?Lacause: There would be a tension. And Nancy would kind of look at me and roll her eyes and say ‘money.’Hillary Richard, friend: She had a lot of clothes. She had a lot of shoes; she had a lot of nice stuff...
Another friend, Hillary Richard, agrees that Nancy liked to strut her husband’s success. But she says Nancy was also quick to share her good fortune—buying unexpected gifts for others. Though Richard does admit that, every now and then, a sudden, unpleasant streak would show itself.
Richard: She was one of those people who had the ability to basically cut someone out of their lives completely, entirely, absolutely... as if they no longer existed without what appeared to me to be much of a reason whatsoever.
But was that ‘on-off’ switch a simple quirk or a shadow of something more troubling? It depends whom you ask. One thing is certain, though: given time and just the right circumstances, Nancy Kissel, a fun-loving live-wire would give all who thought they knew her—the shock of their lives.
For a banker looking to score, Hong Kong was the place to be in 1997. Southeast Asia’s currencies were in freefall and cash-strapped industries were eager to sell off assets for nickels on the dollar.
Rob Kissel’s bosses at Goldman Sachs, the investment banker, wanted him there to pick up the fallen fruit.
Roz Lichter, Kissels' New York neighbor: Rob was just excited. This was an opportunity. So it was like he was just excited to be getting the offer.
Rob, Nancy and their two children, a three-year-old and an infant, packed up their stuff, said goodbye to friends and family. The ardent New Yorkers were about to become American ex-patriates and wealthy ones at that.
It was goodbye New York, hello Hong Kong. Their new home was a sprawling $20,000 a-month apartment in the luxurious Parkview towers. The two of them fit right into the ex-pat lifestyle here where the banker husbands like Rob earned millions of dollars a year, but worked 16 hours-a-day. And the banker wives, like Nancy, filled their hours with children and charity work. The Kissels had begun their great life adventure.
There was so much Hong Kong to explore, a clamorous city of 6.9 million people with business on its mind. But it was also Asia, culturally alien for some Westerners.
After a long day, the Kissels could retreat to the Parkview towers which was like America under glass.
Joss Gistren, fellow Hong Kong ex-pat: It really is like Disney world. It’s kept green areas, pools, waterfalls—restaurants, tennis, driving range. Dennis Murphy, Dateline correspondent: So it has all the resort amenities?Gistren: It does. The tragedy is you can actually live at Parkview and not have to leave...
American Joss Gistren has lived at the Parkview for years. She never met the Kissels there... but understands the initial giddiness they would have felt in this shiny new world of limos—world-class shopping and endless pampering. She also knows the darker side of the adventure.
Gistren: What you find is that the husbands are never at home, even the ones that don’t travel. They leave early in the morning and come home very late at night.Murphy: So, the woman is isolated in many cases?Gistren: Yes. The woman and the children are isolated.
But friends say Nancy Kissel seemed to make the best of it.
Hillary Richard, Nancy Kissel's close friend: She played tennis. She started a business. She had friends. She enjoyed it.
Close friend Hillary Richard vacationed with Nancy and Rob during those years. If the move half-way around the world had put stress on the Kissel marriage, she says, Nancy didn’t let on—quite the opposite.
Richard: She would speak on at great length about how wonderful and passionate her relationship with Rob remained. I mean I...Murphy: She talked about life in bed sometimes, right?Richard: She did absolutely.Murphy: And things were okay?Richard: Things were great according to her.Murphy: She and Rob were a hot ticket, huh?Richard: That’s the way she portrayed it, yeah.
But every now and then, the veneer would slip, just a bit. Former neighbor Roz Lichter saw the Kissels on a home leave visit in 2000-- little more than two years into their time in Hong Kong and sensed something had changed.
Lichter: I couldn’t connect to Rob — he was working really hard, that he was tired. That would be the best thing. I didn’t get a sense of joy when I saw him.
No wonder she saw fatigue. That two to three year Hong Kong stint was turning into a multi-year slog of meetings, deals and travel. Along the way, in 2000, Merrill Lynch wooed Rob away from Goldman Sachs, making him its top man in Southeast Asia. Rob, the golden son, was doing the Kissel family proud.
And he wasn’t the only one. Brother Andrew was on a roll with his investment firm, buying and managing commercial properties around New York.
Andrew, now married to wife Hayley, a former ski champion and stock analyst, had bought a co-op apartment on New York’s Upper East side and made it the showplace of the building.
Peter Chamberlain, Andrew Kissel's fellow apartment owner: I just knew him to be somebody who was involved in real estate transactions.
Fellow apartment owner Peter Chamberlain says neighbors were so taken by young Mr. Kissel with the golden touch that they tapped him to be their building’s treasurer. He could break into their mutual piggy bank—with no questions asked.
Murphy: Is that unusual?Chamberlain: Yes, that is highly improper.
As a fellow boardmember, though, Chamberlain could eyeball some of the books. And a little quick math told him the numbers there weren’t adding up. He says he confronted the other board members and Andrew Kissel, a face off he lost.
Murphy: What did you think? At the end of that little bit of accounting, what did you think was going on?Chamberlain:To be honest with you, frankly, I couldn’t imagine that someone in our building would steal from us.
But someone was stealing—with both hands. Eventually, the rest of the board caught on and demanded answers from their treasurer. But if Kissel was a financial whiz, it seems he was also a master of the con.
Murphy: How much did he sting the building for?Chamberlain: The number that gets floated around on paper is $4.7 million.
You might think that explosive discovery would land treasurer Kissel in a New York City jail. But that didn’t happen. Somehow, from somewhere, he came up with the cash and paid back those missing millions. In return, he was allowed to leave unpunished.
Chamberlain: There are stories that people witnessed him on the cameras sliding out of the service elevator down to the basement and running down 71st street and 2nd avenue when the whole building became aware of the problems.Murphy: Skulking away, huh?Chamberlain: Yeah.
And where does a disgraced millionaire skulk off to? Why Greenwich... Connecticut of course? It was home to big money.
But instead of contemplating his misdeeds, in 2003, Andrew Kissel was dreaming up more schemes and playing more dirty monopoly with other people’s money. He wasn’t the only Kissel in crisis mode, either. Half way around the world in Hong Kong, his younger brother was worrying about a killer pandemic and his family’s safety. Sadly, it seems Rob Kissel was sweating over the wrong assassin.
In the spring of 2003, Andrew Kissel, lucky to be only spanked by the apartment neighbors he’d swindled, continued buying up commercial and residential properties all over wealthy Connecticut.
It was about then that worrying news was coming out of Asia.
The airborne killer SARS had put that region on high alert including Hong Kong, where Rob and his family lived. There was no question Rob had to get Nancy and the-now three kids out of Asia. The natural safe haven was the Kissel family ski house in Stratton, Vermont. Rob, always the dutiful breadwinner, elected to stay in Hong Kong—one of those fateful decisions.
Frank Shea, investigator: He wanted the confirmation. He was pretty convinced it was going on, but he wanted the evidence.
Frank Shea is a former New York City police detective-turned-private investigator. During that separation from his family Rob Kissel got that funny feeling -- the one that tells you your spouse is doing something they shouldn’t. He hired Shea’s investigators to survey his wife at the Vermont ski chalet. Shea called Rob in Hong Kong to report what they were seeing in real time.
Shea: This gentleman arrived in his van and parked on a dirt road and snuck into the house. I told Rob what was going on. He said...Dennis Murphy, Dateline correspondent: Same time?Shea: Same time.Murphy: This is ongoing as we’re talking?
That ‘gentleman’ was Michael del Priore, a local TV/stereo installer. On the phone, Shea says Kissel took the news stoically, hung up and immediately called his wife. Minutes later, there was a stir in the Vermont house.
Shea: The male came out of the house, got in his van, and drove off. So Rob called me back at my house and he told me that he had spoken to Nancy. He didn’t let her know that the house was being watched. He just said, ‘Nancy don’t do anything stupid. We have the children. We promised each other we’d get this back together.’
It seemed she’d been chastened. Nancy quickly returned to her husband in Hong Kong, presumably to work on the marriage. A month later, Shea received an email from Rob saying he was in New York for back surgery and that Nancy was with him. In fact, he was posing another job for the investigator, who obliged.
Shea: What we found then was that while Rob was in the hospital and during the course of this operation, she was seeing this gentleman.Murphy: The same guy from Vermont?Shea: That’s correct.
This time, he says, the unwelcome news pierced Rob’s tough guy exterior.
Shea: He was broken over it. He was broken up over it. But he said ‘Well, if I can just get her out of New York and get her back home,’ he said. ‘We can work on our marriage.’Murphy: He thought this was a solvable problem, this relationship?Shea: He really did.
By late August 2003, the couple was back in Hong Kong. At one point, Rob opened up about his troubled marriage in an email to his big brother Andrew.
Yet, no one on the outside was sensing the dangerous turn Rob and Nancy’s lives were taking. No one, that is, except Frank Shea. At one point, 8,000 away, Rob told the detective something unsettling.
Shea: She would come home and have a two finger scotch, but the scotch was making him feel much different than he normally felt. It would make him feel woozy, disoriented, not something he was used to.
The former cop’s instinct kicked in. Shea urged Rob, someone he considered now a friend, to rush a sample of the scotch to a lab for testing. Shea realized his friend might not do it. So he decided to do something extraordinary. He’d pay Rob Kissel a visit at the exclusive China Club in Hong Kong to spell it out.
Shea: I sat down with Rob Kissel and I looked him right across the table at the China Club and I said ‘Rob, I think Nancy’s trying to kill you.’Murphy: How do you react to that kind of thing? Your marriage may be on the rocks, but "she’s killing me?"Shea: He he took in my statement. He didn’t say that he bought it 100 percent, but he really was concerned about his safety.
Still the urgency of it all seemed lost on Rob. Before he knew it, it was Halloween weekend, the end of one month and the beginning of another.
Rob Kissel never did send that sample out for testing. But he had made a decision. He was convinced that his marriage had broken down and he was going to ask his wife for a divorce. In fact, friends of the couple say they were supposed to talk about the split on that Sunday in November.
We know Rob Kissel spent the day with his three kids he was crazy about. At one point, his daughter gave him a pink milkshake—mixed up by her mom—a “secret recipe” she called it, in the spirit of Halloween. It seemed at the time a cute gesture but not that significant.
He had to have had so much on his mind that afternoon: the impending divorce, the possible loss of his children ... and on top of it all, a critical conference call at home later that evening.
It was so important that a colleague phoned him to talk about strategy for the meeting. Hong Kong reporter Albert Wong says the colleague thought Rob sounded as though he were on another planet.
Albert Wong, Hong Kong reporter: He was just bizarre—completely.Murphy: Groggy? out of it?Wong: Completely. Exactly.
Maybe stress was finally taking its toll on Rob Kissel. Or maybe something else was afoot. Maybe the goblins of Halloween had one more trick to play.
Feng Shui: For thousands of years, a great many Chinese have believed there’s a life force that flows around us like wind and water. Interrupt it at your peril.
Take one of the most prominent skyscrapers on the Hong Kong skyline, the Bank of China.
Very bad Feng Shui, people will tell you because the building with its sharp edges like glass daggers restricts the life flow inside.
Bad luck comes to all within and near it whisper the believers.
It’s not clear if Robert Kissel cared a fig for Feng Shui. But he was focused on the Bank of China—
Albert Wong, Hong Kong reporter: In 2003, this was a huge market. I mean they were talking about billions of U.S. dollars.
Albert Wong is a reporter for the China Standard, a business newspaper in Hong Kong.
Wong: It was fiercely competed—especially with amongst Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, all the big ones.
But the Bank of China deal was fast approaching at the worst of times for Robert Kissel. Beneath the crisp business suit and tie, he was facing a personal crisis: his marriage was collapsing and he had reason to suspect his wife was drugging him...just as his private eye had warned.
Frank Shea: Almost every conversation. It was brought up that he was still having this disoriented feeling.
On the first Sunday in November 2003, Halloween weekend, a close friend and colleague called to discuss an important conference call on the Bank of China deal later that night. He said Kissel sounded sleepy and out of sorts. Reporter Albert Wong:
Wong: Completely groggy.Dennis Murphy, Dateline correspondent: Not making sense?Wong: Yeah. Exactly.
At first the friend didn’t make much of it. But when Kissel missed the conference call that night and was a no-show at the office the next day, the friend called Nancy Kissel. She told him she and Rob were dealing with family issues. But as days passed, the friend suspected something more sinister at play and filed a missing person’s report. Police inspectors later knocked on Mrs. Kissel’s door. She let them in and explained her husband had walked out on her after a fight.
Wong: They don’t suspect anything until they go into the bedroom. And he says that it’s a gut feeling, just from experience.
Meanwhile, another team of inspectors was investigating reports of a strange smell coming from the Kissel storage unit. The police eventually asked Mrs. Kissel for the keys. After some hesitation, she handed them over.
Wong: As soon as they open the door, the smell was so overwhelming they knew straight away there was a dead body in there.Murphy: They’d found the missing husband.Wong: Right.
40-year-old Robert Kissel had been rolled inside a carpet, padded with pillows and towels to contain the stench. Within hours, his wife was under arrest.
The city of dazzling lights was lit up even brighter by the juiciest story to hit Hong Kong in years: Nancy Kissel, fashionable wife of an ex-pat millionaire banker charged with his murder. In the backseat of chauffeured limos and over cappuccinos, the expat community savored each new morsel of the investigation. The body stuffed inside a carpet, whispers about a drugged milkshake. It was just a feast of speculation about the final days on Nancy and Robert Kissel.
Joss Gistren, fellow Hong Kong ex-pat: What would drive a woman to do this? Nancy has a reputation of being a fabulous mother—very active in the school, stable.
Gistren, a fellow expat at the Parkview apartment towers, says the story got husbands and wives fighting amongst themselves about what could’ve gone so murderously wrong behind closed doors. 8,000 miles away, other old friends in New York were standing slack-jawed, too, wondering if they’d heard the news right.
Roz Lichter, Kissels' New York neighbor: I was in the hallway going out and our neighbor said, “You’re not gonna believe this.” I said “What?” you know, she said, “Rob is dead and Nancy killed him.” You know the shock...
Almost overnight, Rob and Nancy’s three children— a 9, 6 and 4-year-old—had become virtual orphans. Their father stuffed in the basement, their mother in custody for the foreseeable future. Quickly the children were returned to America, where they eventually wound up in the care of their aunt Hayley and fabulously wealthy uncle, Andrew Kissel, Robert’s brother.
By this point, he was ensconced in a ritzy, Greenwich, Connecticut mansion, its impeccable facade hiding the sins within.
Michael Collesano, court appointed attorney for Rob and Nancy Kissel's children: I got the impression he was a wheeler-dealer.
Michael Collesano, the children’s court appointed legal guardian, interviewed Andrew Kissel on the telephone, routine when recommending child custodians to the court. But the phone call went poorly.
Collesano: He wanted to tell me how rich he was. And I wasn’t really looking to get from the conversation how rich he was. I was looking to get from the conversation that he was gonna be a good custodian to the kids.Murphy: You weren’t counting cars.Collesano: Exactly.Murphy: Did you hang up the phone and think, ‘What a jerk’?Collesano: Maybe that’s a little strong. But in hindsight, yeah.
But few people were focusing on the psychobabble of Andrew’s money and self-identity issues. Not with a murder trial about to begin in Hong Kong. There was an outpouring of sympathy for the Kissel family that so brutally lost a son, a brother, an uncle.
But what about Nancy Kissel? One of the few old friends who’d heard her voice was Elizabeth Lacause. Nancy called from her lawyer’s office in Hong Kong.
Elizabeth Lacause, Nancy Kissel's friend: She was shaken. And she said; “Oh, my gosh, you don’t know. You don’t know what I’ve been through.”
But Nancy Kissel was about to tell everyone -- from the witness stand, a shocking story that would blow the buttons off Hong Kong’s smart set.
The sticky monsoon season was approaching—hot and humid—and in Hong Kong’s courthouse, a murder trial to match the climate was about to begin.
Nancy Kissel was charged with thebludgeoning murder of her banker husband Robert.
Hong Kong couldn’t get enough of it all summer long.
Albert Wong, reporter: For three months it was just intense.
Reporter Albert Wong says the headlines started from day one—with the defendant’s dramatic new look. Investigator Frank Shea also attended the trial. He says the transformation of stylish Nancy Kissel was astonishing.
Frank Shea, investigator: I couldn’t believe it was the same person. She had changed dramatically. She looked oriental. She had black hair. Dennis Murphy, Dateline correspondent: As a defense strategy or as a way to appear to jurors?Shea: I would say absolutely to appeal to the jury, to put a more local nature on her defense.
Also in the gallery, watching, stunned: Robert’s father William and sister, Jane Kissel Clayton. Mercifully, perhaps, Robert and Nancy’s children were thousands of miles away, in Connecticut with Uncle Andrew, shielded from their mother’s unfolding drama.
And high theater it was. The prosecution outlining the case against Nancy Kissel in classic strokes: a calculating wife in love with another man, hungry for her husbands millions, unwilling to put up with a messy divorce. Before she killed him, prosecutors said, Nancy Kissel had trolled the Internet researching drugs to poison her husband.
Wong: I mean, right from the start, they say it was a cold-blooded killing. Simple as that and—Murphy: And it had been in the works for months and months? Wong: For months and months—premeditated, planned. She wanted to kill him, take the children and go to the U.S.
Prosecutors also laid out the last hours of Rob Kissel in grisly detail. They said Nancy knew full-well her husband was about to ask for a divorce, so she launched a preemptive strike: she blended a pharmacy of drugs including the substance Rohypnol into a pink-colored milkshake and gave it to one of her daughters to serve to daddy.
Murphy: This is known as date rape drug in the States.Wong: Yes, exactly date rape drug.Murphy: Knocks you out, you can’t remember details.Wong: exactly.
After drinking the pink shake, Rob Kissel reportedly played with his son for one last time and spoke on the phone with a colleague about that all-important, upcoming conference call. Prosecutors said that at some point, as the drugs kicked in, Rob Kissel got into his pajamas—staggered toward his bed and collapsed, unconscious, on the bedroom floor.
Then, said the prosecutor,Nancy pounced, a leaden family heirloom in her hand.
Wong: She took up this ornament. It was a heavy ornament, bludgeoned him five times. Each one could have been fatal and so with such a force that his skull bone broke and pierced his brain.
What happened next, prosecutors said, was a hasty and botched cover-up: a local upscale home furnishings store, Tequila Kola, reported how Mrs. Kissel bought new linens and carpets the next day and prosecutors added a gruesome detail not reported earlier.
Wong: The prosecution says she slept with the body for two nights. She locked the doorMurphy: She slept with the body?
Wong: As in the same room. She told her domestic helpers don’t bother to clean up the room while she continued changing the linen changing the rugs. And then eventually wrapping him up in the rug, tying it up and ordering removal men to take it to a storeroom.
As bizarre as the state’s presentation was, it paled against what was to come. The defense started its case with a dramatic star witness.
It was Nancy Kissel’s turn to tell her story in her own words. She took the stand, steadying herself on a rail as she teetered toward the witness chair. Then, in just a whisper of a voice, she turned the tables and put her dead husband Rob on trial.
Joss Gistren, fellow ex-pat, attended Nancy’s trial every day...
Joss Gistren, fellow ex-pat: It was a very emotional moment. It was her chance to actually tell what she felt had happened.
And tell she did, describing in minute detail scenes from an abusive perverted marriage: How at night her husband did a Jekyll and Hyde—peeling off his conservative skin to snort coke and drink scotch ‘til he was smashed and how he routinely forced her into humiliating, rough sex.
Elizabeth Lacause, Nancy Kissel's friend: Her self esteem was probably absolutely nothing.
Liz Lacause says her friend was crying out for help—finding some temporary solace with a lover in Vermont.
Lacause: She wanted the loving husband, and she had that. And that fell away and then she had nothing.
On the stand, Nancy did acknowledge that—at least on one occasion—she had sedated Rob to calm him down. Though she denied lacing her husband’s milkshake that day with the five types of sedatives found in his body.
But for all her sordid testimony, Nancy Kissel’s memory of her husband’s murder was spotty, at best: she remembered acting in self defense—her husband threatening her. But striking him five times with a lead statue? That was a complete blur.
Wong: He tried to pick a fight by mentioning divorce. He says, supposedly, ‘I’m taking the kids. I’m going.’ and he’s holding a baseball bat. And then eventually through a lot of shouting she gets dragged into the bedroom.Murphy: A violent fight is underway?Wong: Right and she goes blank.
On cross-examination, the prosecutor cut bluntly to the chase.
Wong: ‘Mrs. Kissel there’s just one thing we have to get over and done with. You do of course, accept you killed your husband?’ and she said ‘yes.’Murphy: Gasps in the courtroom? Wong: Right. Gasps in the in the courtroom.
In the end, after three months of trial, the jury of five men and two women didn’t buy the battered wife syndrome. Its unanimous verdict: guilty. Nancy Kissel would spend the rest of her life in a Chinese prison. Rob’s friends in New York couldn’t spare her much sympathy.
Roz Lichter, Kissels' neighbor: The legacy that she leaves to her children is she murdered their father and said he was a terrible person.Hillary Richard: From a personal, level it didn’t comport with any aspect of Rob I had ever seen. I hope the children don’t believe what’s been written and said by their own mother about their father. He loved them very, very much and I hope they can retain some little tiny shred of that as they get older.
Everyone hoped the children’s healing could begin under the care of their uncle Andrew. But by then, he may have been too preoccupied with something else—there was yet another storm heading toward the Kissel family.
It was Shakespearean, almost Biblical, what was about to happen to the surviving brother. Surviving, but not for very long...
By the spring of 2005, nearly two years after the murder of his younger brother, Rob, Andrew Kissel was in a funk.
Friend and theater producer Brian Howie said not even a festive booze cruise on Kissel’s yacht could cheer him up.
Brian Howie, Andrew Kissels' high school friend: There were parts of the trip where Andrew would be crying and you could tell he was deeply troubled and saddened.
Everyone assumed his grief was over the family’s great tragedy. Rob, murdered by his wife, the children left behind.
But maybe the tears were for himself.
It seems Andrew’s crooked monopoly game was catching up with him. He was about to draw the “go-directly-to-jail-card.”
As his family was sitting through a traumatic murder trial in Hong Kong, Andrew Kissel was making headlines back home here in Greenwich -- swindling his apartment neighbors in Manhattan was just a taste of what he had been up to according to federal authorities. In the summer of 2005 they arrested him, charging him with defrauding banks in a massive loan scheme.
Phillip Russell, Andrew Kissel’s attorney: There was a great deal of evidence against him and there was a great deal of money that could not be accounted for.
Give or take 20 million dollars. Kissel’s own attorney Phillip Russell says the alleged scheme went like this—Kissel would take out a mortgage for a piece of property. Then forge another document to make it look like he had paid off the debt—owned the property free and clear.
Russell: And then he went to a different bank and mortgaged the same property again so that there would be more than one loan on a single piece of property.
Bank fraud: If convicted of all charges, Andrew Kissel could have spent the rest of his life in a federal slammer. Not a rosy prospect for the guardian of his late brother’s three children and heirs to his estate estimated at about $18-million dollars.
Murphy: He presented himself to you initially as a family man. Concerned about his brother’s family...
Collesano, court-appointed attorney for Rob Kissel’s children: completely upstanding...
Murphy: ...pillar of the community
Michael Collesano, that court-appointed attorney for Rob Kissel’s children was incensed when he later realized that Andrew had conned him into believing he had the best interests of his nephew and nieces at heart.
Michael Collesano, court-appointed attorney for Rob Kissel's children: I believe he said that he had independently raised $100,000 in a separate trust for their well being.Murphy: Was that true?Collesano: No.Murphy: So he just sat there and lied to you?Collesano: Absolutely.
There was another worry for the children’s lawyer: Behind the stately walls of Kissel manor, war had been declared. Andrew and his wife Hayley were splitting up in ugly fashion. Emails obtained by Dateline show Hayley venting her spleen to her husband’s sister, Jane Kissel Clayton.
‘I just hate him!!!!!!!!’ she writes. ‘He will never be a good, responsible person”...it goes on to say “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...”
Collesano: That’s just one of the emails. There was a pattern of behavior there that clearly indicated a very stressful home and that clearly indicated to I think any reasoned person that the interest of the children weren’t served by being in that home.
Andrew’s sister, Jane, agreed. She petitioned for and was granted custody of the three children, she went so far as to make Andrew and Hayley’s feud a matter of public record. Andrew, in retaliation, left a message on his sister’s answering machine.
Andrew Kissel's voice message: Jane it’s your ex-brother. You’re famous, you’re on the front page of the New York Times. You should get it. You’re quoted. And we are going to bury you, Jane.
But Kissel was in no position to be slinging dirt at anyone.
His own attorney, Phillip Russell, says Andrew eventually cut a deal with federal prosecutors that included prison. In the meantime, he was home under house arrest, ticking off the days, watching TV with an ankle bracelet.
Howie: I would hear ‘good’. He’s happy, he’s home…. he’s, um, he’s resigned to his fate...
Problem was, fate wasn’t resigned to Andrew Kissel’s plan. In April 2006,just days before he was due in federal court to confess his crimes, karma made a house call.
Andrew Kissel was alone in the Greenwich mansion. His wife, Hayley, and the two kids had moved out that Friday—forced to leave after Andrew stopped paying rent. Movers were coming to clear out the rest of the furniture after the weekend. But when they arrived early Monday morning April 3rd, 2006, they made a ghastly discovery in the basement.
Police press conference: The body of Andrew Michael Kissel who was found dead within his residence at 10 Dairy road...
According to police, whoever murdered Andrew Kisselhad pulled his shirt over his head and stabbed him multiple times.
A second Kissel brother—dead—a victim of foul play. He was 46 years old.
To date police have made no arrests or officially named any suspects.
But very un-officially there was an amateur detective theory floated that had a weird, appealing logic to it.
Howie: About a day after it happened, I thought he probably hired someone to kill him.
Friend Brian Howie says Andrew Kissel was broke, but he did have a hefty life insurance policy. He says Kissel may have loved his own children—two daughters—enough to pull off one last con—against the insurance company. A policy that would pay off for murder, but not suicide.
Howie: Because if there was insurance money involved...he loved those children. And if he was going away for a significant amount of time, you know, money mattered in his world. So he wanted to see that they were taken care of.
But it’s just conjecture. The murder remains a true ‘who-dun-it’ in mystery game-board fashion. And while the police are asking the close-up investigator’s questions: Who? Why?
Kissel family and friends are left with the cosmic ones. The unanswerable stuff: How did two brothers, so different in so many important ways, both end up discovered in basements in such grisly fashions?
The childhood friend from New Jersey doesn’t know.
Dennis Murphy, Dateline correspondent: Here’s one brother murdered by his wife, quite a successful guy. Danny Williams, Kissel brothers' childhood friend: Right.Murphy: And there’s the other guy who wants to have the house and the yacht and all that, but runs a Ponzi scheme to keep it going.Williams: And the sad thing is, he didn’t have to do it that way. He was a great salesman. He could have done it on a legitimate basis. And maybe he wanted it fast, maybe he needed it fast.Murphy: Some people would say the old adage: money is the root of all evil.Williams: Right. Maybe the pursuit of money is the root of all evil.
It’s natural for us to want to take the sting out of chaos—murder, cruel fates—with bumper sticker wisdom.
Well, maybe the Chinese, who’ve been at the proverb business for centuries, have the one that applies to the brothers Kissel.
It goes, "Good luck seldom comes in pairs, but bad things never walk alone."
In her appeal, Nancy Kissel says the judge in her original trial did not properly instruct the jury to consider her argument of self-defense. The Hong Kong court of appeals is expected to issue a decision within the next few weeks.