Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Andrew Kissel

The Milkshake Murder

Robert Kissel
Robert Kissel

On November 6, 2003, Robert Kissel's body was found wrapped in an oriental rug in the basement of a Hong Kong residential high-rise, his head bloody from blunt-force trauma.  A subsequent autopsy found several prescription medications in his system, including Rohypnol, the date rape drug.  His wife, Nancy Kissel, had previously received prescriptions for those same medications from two separate doctors.  She was later charged with her husband's murder, accused of sedating him with a pink milkshake containing enough medication to render him defenseless, then beating him to death with a metal statue. 

The local press dubbed it the "Milkshake Murder," and Nancy Kissel's trial riveted Hong Kong and much of East Asia during the summer of 2005.  Thin, pale, and drawn, Nancy Kissel appeared in court every day dressed in black.  She was almost unrecognizable to her friends and acquaintances who remembered a more stylish woman, well-dressed with dyed blond hair, the wife of a high-flying international investment banker.  Like the wives of many other ex-patriot businessmen in Hong Kong, she had a lot of money and a lot of time on her hands.  Investigators discovered that she also had a boyfriend in America, a TV repairman she had met when she and her three children had fled to the family's Vermont vacation home during the SARS epidemic in 2003.  Hong Kong prosecutors accused her of killing her husband so that she'd be free to be with her lover.

Nancy Kissel
Nancy Kissel

But Nancy Kissel claimed that she was the real victim, beaten and abused by a short-tempered husband who constantly demanded anal sex.  At her trial she took the stand and admitted that she had hit him with the figurine, but only in self-defense as he was attacking her.  When questioned about the details of the events of that day, she claimed to have only partial memory of what had happened. 

The mostly male jury didn't buy her story and convicted her of murder, giving her a life sentence at a Hong Kong correctional facility.  American officials declined to intervene in her case.  American courts did, however, take an interest in the welfare of Nancy and Robert's three young children: Elaine, June, and Reis.  First, Nancy's father, then her half-brother, attempted to raise the children, but when the task proved to be too much for them, Andrew and Hayley Kissel made their case for custody to Stamford Superior Court and were granted temporary guardianship of the children who stood to inherit their father's $18 million estate.  After her conviction, Nancy Kissel had written a letter to the court, stating that she wished to have her children cared for by Hayley Kissel.

Andrew arranged to pick up the children from Nancy's half-brother in Cincinnati.  He chartered a private Marquis jet and billed Robert's estate for the $8,000 fee, New York reported.  When he saw that his dining room table wouldn't accommodate five children and two adults comfortably, he bought a bigger one for $6,000 and billed his brother's estate for 30% of the cost.  He eventually submitted a bill of $171,000 to the estate.

Jane Kissel Clayton
Jane Kissel Clayton

But marital tensions between Andrew and Hayley threatened their vision of  a happy conjoined family.  Hayley wanted a divorce, but she still wanted to care for Robert and Nancy's children.  Her intention was to raise them by herself along with her own two daughters.  But in the fall of 2005, Andrew's sister, Jane Kissel Clayton of Mercer Island, Washington, challenged that arrangement and was granted custody of Robert's children.  If Andrew had ever dreamed of having access to his nieces' and nephew's inheritance, that possibility was now beyond his reach. 

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