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Driver says he didn't kill Greenwich developer

Andrew Kissel's criminal cases were pending in federal and state courts in New York at the time of his death.
Andrew Kissel's criminal cases were pending in federal and state courts in New York at the time of his death. Dateline NBC
/ Source: The Associated Press

A chauffeur charged with conspiracy to commit murder said that he did not kill a wealthy developer who had been days away from pleading guilty in a multimillion-dollar fraud case.

Investigators will not comment on a motive in the death of Andrew Kissel, 46, who was found tied up and stabbed to death in his Greenwich mansion in April 2006.

Among the theories investigated, Greenwich Police Chief David Ridberg said, was that Kissel's death was a suicide-for-hire. Research showed that such killings are extremely rare, he said.

"If it ends up being the case, that's fine," he said. "If it doesn't end up being the case, that's fine, too."

An attorney for the driver, Carlos Trujillo, 47, dismissed that scenario.

"I don't think they ever really believed that," Lindy Urso said. "It's my understanding the police don't believe that theory at all."

The arrest warrants are sealed for Trujillo and his cousin, Leonard Trujillo, 21, who was charged with murder. Both were taken into custody last week.

As Greenwich detectives led Carlos Trujillo out of police headquarters in shackles Monday morning, a reporter asked whether he killed Kissel.

"No, I didn't," he replied.

He later pleaded not guilty in Stamford Superior Court to one count of conspiracy to commit murder and was ordered held on $1 million (euro650,000) bond until his next court appearance April 3.

"I can emphatically state he has maintained from day one he had nothing to do with this," said Urso, who added he does not believe the cousins knew each other well. "It's hard for me to believe this guy committed a murder."

Urso said Trujillo, a native of Colombia, is a lawful permanent U.S. resident. He said Greenwich police had Trujillo's nephew deported and tried to "strong arm" his relatives, but stopped short of accusing authorities of unethical behavior.

Leonard Trujillo appeared Monday morning in Worcester District Court in Massachusetts, where he signed paperwork agreeing to return to Connecticut to face charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. He is being held without bond on a fugitive-from-justice charge and will return to court Tuesday so Connecticut authorities can pick him up.

The police chief would not explain the timing of the arrests.

Carlos Trujillo, the last person to see Kissel alive, had been interviewed by police several times and had given them samples of his DNA, fingerprints and some personal documents, Urso has said.

"He was very close to Andrew," Urso said. "At the end, I think nobody was closer."

Carlos Trujillo was arrested late Friday. His cousin was arrested Saturday at his Worcester home.

Leonard Trujillo's mother was in court in Worcester but declined to comment. Court-appointed attorney Michael O'Dougherty, representing him only on the fugitive charge, said he has a wife and two toddlers and is unemployed.

Kissel's brother, Robert, was a wealthy banker whose wife was convicted of murder in Hong Kong in September 2005 and sentenced to life in prison after feeding him a milkshake laced with drugs and then beating him to death in November 2003.

Andrew Kissel and his estranged wife, Hayley, had cared for Robert Kissel's three children until they were handed over to the custody of a relative, who lived near Seattle. Andrew and Hayley Kissel had two children of their own.

The couple's divorce was heating up before he was killed, court records show. In divorce papers, Hayley Kissel had accused her husband of being a belligerent alcoholic.

Kissel's criminal cases were pending in federal and state courts in New York at the time of his death. The federal case charged him with real estate fraud and state prosecutors charged him with grand larceny, alleging he stole nearly $4 million from his Manhattan apartment cooperative.

Kissel also was being sued by a former business partner.