American convicted in Hong Kong 'milkshake murder'

AP News
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Posted: Mar 26, 2011 12:58 AM
American convicted in Hong Kong 'milkshake murder'

An American who drugged her investment banker-husband with a milkshake and bludgeoned him to death more than seven years ago was convicted of murder at her second trial in a case that grabbed world attention with lurid details on the breakdown of a wealthy expatriate marriage in Hong Kong.

The unanimous jury verdict Friday and automatic life sentence match the outcome of the first trial against Nancy Kissel, whose lawyers argued she was a battered, clinically depressed wife acting under diminished responsibility when her husband provoked her attack.

Prosecutors argued Robert Kissel's death in November 2003 was a carefully planned murder Nancy Kissel tried to conceal.

In opening statements in January, prosecutor David Perry said Kissel struck at least five blows to her husband's head with a metal ornament while Robert Kissel lay face down in the bedroom, subdued by six drugs mixed in a milkshake. She then covered the body with a plastic bag and towels, wrapped it in a carpet and had it moved to storage, Perry said.

Kissel testified last month her husband physically and sexually abused her as their marriage deteriorated. She denied being guilty of murder but was willing to admit to manslaughter, a lesser charge that was never filed and the jury did not consider.

The 46-year-old native of Adrian, Michigan did not appear to react as the verdict was announced in court.

"We're not even going to tackle that now," said Kissel's mother, Jean McGlothlin, when asked whether an appeal would be filed. She said the family's first priority was to make sure Nancy Kissel gets "medical, physical and psychological help from professionals, because she won't survive if she doesn't."

Kissel has appeared frail and withdrawn throughout the trial. When she took the stand last month, she told court she weighed just 38 kilograms (84 pounds), 16 kilograms lighter than when she entered prison more than five years ago. Her lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, said there was clear evidence of his client's mental state deteriorating from 2000 to 2003.

Her stepfather, Michael McGlothlin said he was "shocked at the outcome" but both said they thought the trial was fair. Kissel's 2005 conviction was overturned last year because prosecutors improperly cross-examined her and the original judge allowed hearsay evidence.

Nancy Kissel testified Robert Kissel's behavior changed after she had the first of the couple's three children in 1994, and he started forcing her to have oral and anal sex while becoming more emotionally distant and absorbed in his work.

"The more involved he got with the investment banking, the more forceful he was with me sexually," a frail and tearful Kissel testified.

Her lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, asked the judge Friday to recommend compassion for her when a review board evaluates the life sentence. He cited Kissel's good character and the context of the crime, which the defense alleges came from an abusive relationship.

The case of Robert Kissel's murder has been documented in a book _ which also examines the 2006 murder of his brother, Andrew Kissel, in Greenwich, Connecticut _ and a special on CBS' "48 Hours Mystery." Robert worked for Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong, and his estate was worth $18 million in life insurance, stocks and properties, according to prosecutors.

Also Friday, a chauffeur was sentenced to six years in prison on a charge related to the killing of millionaire real estate developer Andrew Kissel in 2006.

Carlos Trujillo entered an Alford plea to attempted murder in court in Stamford, Connecticut. The plea does not admit guilt but acknowledges enough evidence for conviction.

A cousin he allegedly hired to kill Kissel for money pleaded guilty to manslaughter and conspiracy.