The Kissel Brothers

This blog may be especially long because it actually contains two unrelated crimes. The only connection is that the two victims of these violent crimes were brothers. In fact, one of the crimes was committed in Hong Kong while the other in the United States some three years later. This is the story about Robert and Andrew Kissel. Robert was an investment banker who worked for such businesses as Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch. Andrew was a real estate developer with a bit of a shady past and future at the time of his death. But lets start with Robert as his murder occurred first.

Robert had married his wife Nancy in 1989. By the time of his death in 2003 the couple had three children and were living in Hong Kong. They had moved there in 1997 (or 1998 depending on what information you read) while he was working at Goldman Sachs. He would later change employment to Merrill Lynch. He was considered to be a workaholic who was devoted to his work. There would be disputes later as to whether he was just as devoted to his family.

In early 2003 Nancy began having an affair with an electrician she had met on one of her many visits to the states. It appears the couple may still have had a home to maintain, but that was not completely clear. At any rate, although they were not even on the same continent, Nancy and Michael Del Priore had maintained a relationship and she seemed to visit at the very least more often than she had prior to meeting him. Robert became suspicious and it does not appear that he was super shy about expressing it. He had hired a private detective firm in New York who would apparently spy on Nancy when she was in the states and he had installed spyware on the family computer. The private detective would later report that around August of 2003 Robert had reported to him that the scotch that he drank often had begun to taste funny and he wondered if Nancy was poisoning him. The private detective encouraged Robert to no only have a glass tested but also himself to see if Robert's suspicions were correct but he apparently did not do so.

On November 6, 2003 Robert's colleagues were worried. They had not heard from Robert since the evening of the 2nd and he had missed several appointments which was highly unusual for him. Police were dispatched to his home and they would find his body, placed in a sleeping bag (or maybe it was garbage bags), wrapped in a carpet and in the storage room of the couple's apartment. Within two hours Nancy had been arrested.

She would go on trial, the first time, in June of 2005 in Hong Kong and the case would come to be known as the “Milkshake Murder.” This nicknamed would come from the fact that it was believed that on the night of November 2, 2003 Nancy had made Robert, and their neighbor, Andrew Tanzer, strawberry milkshakes and had them served to them by their daughters. Based not just on the autopsy of Robert Kissel, but also on the testimony of Andrew Tanzer, it would be believed that the milkshakes had been laced with a variety of medications considered to be sedatives. Tanzer would testify that after drinking the milkshake he became drowsy and soon returned home but had all but become unconscious on his couch. His wife would report that he did not wake up for several hours. Once Tanzer came too he said it was not long before he was out again and that by the following day he remembered little about what had happened just after drinking the milkshake.

Considering the fact that Robert's body was found in the storage room of their apartment, Nancy had to come up with something to explain things. She would plead not guilty of course but would claim that she had killed her husband in self defense. She, just as so often is the case, would claim that Robert had been abusive throughout their marriage but as is also often the case this had never been reported to authorities. Nancy would claim that much of Robert's abuse came in the form of rape and sodomy. She would say that on the night in question Robert had approached her about a divorce. This part could have been true (that is in fact if he was even conscious) because it was reported that Robert had told several people that he intended to inform Nancy that evening he wanted a divorce. Nancy would claim that he had also argued that he planned to retain custody of their children. She would assert that throughout this argument Robert had then began to “sexually” attack her and she had struck him. Police would come to believe that the weapon used was an eight pound metal statuette. While she seemed to remember to recall the parts of the story in which she lessened her culpability, she would claim memory loss in many other areas related to the crime. She would argue that along with the abuse she suffered that Robert was an alcoholic who was also addicted to cocaine.

Authorities had discovered that in the time leading up to the murder Nancy had gone online to search about sleeping pills. They also reported finding six prescription medications in Robert's body including Rohyphol (aka the date rape drug). Five of those medications found had been prescribed to Nancy. I found nothing that indicated that cocaine was found in his system, although it is possible I suppose.

After a sixty-five day trial and eight hours of deliberation, on September 1, 2005 Nancy Kissel was found guilty in the murder of her husband and sentenced to life in prison. In 2008 Nancy appealed her conviction but it was rejected. However in 2010 the courts overturned her conviction saying that the prosecutor had used inadmissible evidence and hearsay throughout.

It seems that by the time the second trial would be taking place in March of 2011 she had attempted to plead guilty not to murder, but to manslaughter on the basis of “diminished responsibility and provocation.” Now, whether this was simply the defense tactic used in the trial or she had attempted to make a deal is unclear. At any rate on March 25, 2011 she was once again found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. By 2014 it seems that all of her appeals had been exhausted as far as overturning her conviction but she still had hope somehow of having her sentenced reduced at some point. It was said that she wanted to serve her time in the United States but it would end her fight to reduce her sentence. If she returned to the United States with a life sentence from Hong Kong, she would serve that life sentence. So she remains in a Hong Kong prison apparently still attempting every few years to get a reduction in sentencing. I can only assume that this is done in some form like we would see in the states at a parole hearing of some sort. While most information states that she will remain in prison until the day she dies it also says that it will be revisited every few years.

Her three children had been sent back to the United States. As I recall from prior information I believe that in the beginning they were living with Robert's brother, Andrew and his wife. By 2014 it seems they were living with Robert's sister in the Seattle area and Nancy had no contact with them. She continues to maintain her stance that she was abused and killed him in self defense. She states she has no regrets about what she did at the time she did it and has said that asking for forgiveness for what she has done is much different than having regret.

In the meantime, half way across the world, the Kissel family was barely out of the headlines, if they were at all before they were front page news again. Robert's brother Andrew had found himself in some legal trouble himself. In fact, it appears that his trouble had started long before his brother had been killed but he was making every attempt to keep it under wraps. Between 1995 and 2002 Andrew had been the treasurer of a co-op board in New York. It was discovered that he had embezzled about $3.9M from them. When it was discovered it appears that there was a deal made between the co-op and Andrew for him to pay back $4.7M but only if it was not made public. The latter part of the deal did not seem to be kept and a grand jury had charged him with grand larceny among other crimes.

Of course paying this money back, along with the legal issues at hand put a hardship on his family and this is where things seemed to get a bit confusing. By April of 2006 Andrew and his wife, Hayley, were separated. They were being sued by their landlord for unpaid rent and been required to be out of the home by March 31st. Some information states that on April 3, 2006 when the body of Andrew Kissel would be found stabbed several times in the basement of a house by workers of a moving company that he was in a rented home in New Jersey while other reports, that seem more credible say it was the Greenwich Connecticut home in which they were moving from but apparently had not fully vacated as of yet.

Investigators would say that although there seemed to be a lot of people who made the initial suspect list, Andrew's chauffeur, Carlos Trujillo was considered the best suspect early on. They would claim that this came from the fact that Carlos seemingly told different stories to different people pertaining to what he did on that evening prior to Andrew being found after admitting he had been at the home. They also of course had to look at Andrew's wife Hayley as a suspect but they found nothing to link her. She had told investigators that Andrew feared jail and suggested that he may have had someone kill him to avoid jail time. While they considered that option it did not seem plausible. Andrew had been repeatedly stabbed and presumably died a slow death. It is not unheard of people wanting to commit suicide but wanting it to look like an accident or murder in order for their family to receive insurance but it would not have likely been in a situation in which a knife would be used and the victim would have suffered more than needed to achieve this goal.

It took nearly two years but eventually investigators would arrest Carlos Trujillo as well as his cousins, Leonard and Jair Trujillo. The prosecution theory was that the men had killed Andrew because they were involved with him in money laundering and that they feared with all his current legal issues he would implicate them. They believed the men got access not just to the house but to Andrew on the premises that they had cocaine, which apparently Andrew had an addiction to.

Leonard would plead guilty to manslaughter and conspiracy to commit murder but he would never truly admit involvement. His story, and what he would testify in Carlos' trial, was that Carlos had hired him to kill Andrew in exchange for $11,000 and a computer. Leonard would claim that once he got the money he backed out of the deal. This is suspected not to be true considering his guilty plea and the fact he did so in exchange for a twenty year sentence. It is reasonably pointed out that an innocent man, or at least in the manner Leonard claimed, would not have accepted a twenty year sentence. At any rate Leonard sits in a Connecticut prison with a maximum release date of July 2027.

As far as Jair goes, I could find no information pertaining to him past his arrest and it seems likely that the charges were dropped but I cannot be sure. Carlos would go to trial however. He would be charged with murder and attempted murder. The jury would acquit him on the murder charges seemingly not believing the theory of the money laundering scheme the prosecution presented but they hung on the attempted murder charge. Instead of going back to trial Carlos struck a deal in which he pleaded guilty to attempted murder and received a sentence of six year, three of which he had already served. Carlos is not in the Connecticut prison system at this time, which is not unusual as even if he served his entire six years, which is unlikely, he would have been released by now. Whether he served much time after his sentencing is unknown.

Throughout my research on the Kissel brothers I kept thinking about their surviving family, especially parents. It seems their mother, Elaine died in 1989 before any of this came to light but their father, William, was and seemingly still is alive. He lost two sons, as far as I can tell his only sons, to tragic ends. To lose a child is bad enough but to lose two and to lose them to violence is tragic in itself.  


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