Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Nancy Kissel: The Hong Kong Milkshake Murder

'Spartan but Safe'

Nancy Kissel
Nancy Kissel

The jury deliberated for only eight hours.  They returned to the crowded courtroom at 8:30 p.m. on September 1, 2005, and the jury foreman read their unanimous decision: "Guilty."

Nancy Kissel, dressed in black as she had been throughout her trial, showed no emotion.  Standing before Judge Lunn, she immediately received her sentence.  Under Hong Kong law, the mandatory penalty for murder is life imprisonment.  Kissel was then whisked out of the courtroom.  Her mother, who had stood by her side throughout the ordeal, was not allowed to touch her daughter as she passed. 

Prisons in Hong Kong are reputed to be "Spartan but safe," according to the New York Times, and Kissel is now serving her sentence at the Tai Lam Institute for Women.  A government board will review her sentence in five years, then every two years thereafter, and they have the power to recommend a commutation to a fixed term.  If that were to happen, she could be released after serving two-thirds of that term.  According to reporter Clare Cheung of Bloomberg.com, Kissel could also file an appeal to be transferred to a federal prison in the United States, in which case she'd be eligible for parole after serving 10 years.

Ira A. Keeshin
Ira A. Keeshin

Criminal charges have not been brought against Nancy's lover, Michael Del Priore, and prosecutors in Hong Kong apparently have no plans to do so.

After Robert Kissel's murder, the three Kissel children were sent to the United States to live with Nancy's father, Ira A. Keeshin, and his wife in Winnetka, Illinois.  But the couple found it difficult caring for the three young children, according to the New York Times, and Keeshin made plans to have his son by his second wife, an unmarried medical student, take custody of the children.

Andrew Keeshin
Andrew Keeshin

Robert Kissel's younger brother, Andrew Kissel, who lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, petitioned the court for guardianship of his nephew and two nieces.  He and his wife Hayley have two children of their own, and Andrew Kissel argued that his household would be a more appropriate environment for his brother's children, promising to give them a "stable, loving home."  The court granted him temporary custody against the apparent wishes of Nancy Kissel, who had written a notarized declaration from the Siu Lam Psychiatric Center on December 18, 2003, that "in no event shall my three children be placed under the care, direction, or supervision of Andrew Kissel."

In July 2005, Andrew Kissel was hit with legal problems of his own.  Federal authorities have charged him with extensive real-estate fraud.  He's also under investigation by the Manhattan district attorney's office in a separate case.  Free on $1 million bail, he was ordered to wear an electronic ankle bracelet to monitor his movements.  At the same time, his wife filed for divorce.

Andrew's estranged wife Hayley is now caring for Nancy Kissel's three children as well as her own.

Nancy Kissel appealed the guilty verdict citing procedural errors in the trial, but on October 6, 2008, after nearly 5 months of deliberation, the Hong Kong Court of Appeal upheld the lower court's verdict. In February, 2010, Nancy pleaded her case before the the city's Court of Final Appeal, which found "numerous elements of grave concern" when reviewing the case to decide if Nancy Kissel had received a "fair trial." The Court unanimously allowed the appeal, quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial.

On June 11, Kissel was awarded half her trial expenses from the first trial. Her total expenses are estimated at around $5.8 million. The retrial is scheduled to begin in November. Until then she remains in a Hong Kong prison continuing to serve out her sentence.

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