Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Nancy Kissel: The Hong Kong Milkshake Murder

'This Was a Cold-Blooded Murder'

The defense called a series of character witnesses who portrayed Nancy Kissel as a dedicated mother, an active volunteer at her children's school, and a troubled wife in a deteriorating marriage. One friend testified that she had seen Kissel with a black eye in late October 2003, but assumed that it was the result of a "bump with her child." Later Macia Barham, the head music teacher at the Hong Kong International School, was asked if she had ever noticed the accused wearing a black eye. Barham said she'd never seen any injuries on Kissel's face but added that Kissel habitually wore blue- or yellow-tinted glasses indoors, which the teacher attributed to Kissel's "artistic personality," Albert Wong reported in The Standard.

Judge Michael Lunn granted the prosecution's request to introduce "rebuttal evidence" relating to Nancy Kissel's testimony regarding her husband's sexuality, specifically her statements regarding his interest in gay and anal sex. Testimony had been heard earlier in the trial stating that the Kissels' family computer had been used for an internet search on the phrase "anal sex in Taiwan" on April 4 and 5, 2003, while Nancy and her children were in America sitting out the SARS outbreak. Robert Kissel had taken a business trip to Taiwan a few days after that search had been performed. Computer expert Benedict Pasco testified that he had examined the family computer as well as Robert Kissel's personal laptop computer. He found no evidence of Web surfing for pornography on the laptop. On the family desktop, Pasco did find evidence of visits to pornographic web sites. Under cross-examination by defense counsel Alexander King, Pasco stated that searches were conducted on the phrase "anal sex in Taiwan" and that pornographic sites had been visited on the desktop on two occasions that lasted an hour and a half each.

Judge Michael Lunn
Judge Michael Lunn

The prosecution was allowed to revisit the matter of the wooden baseball bat, which Kissel claimed her husband had used on her on the day he died. Government forensic expert Dr. Wong Koon-hung testified that after conducting extensive tests, he concluded that the metal statue Nancy Kissel said she used to defend herself was not struck repeatedly by the bat, as she claimed, because the bat showed no signs of paint smears from the painted statue and the malleable metal of the statue showed no wood grain patterns as a result of having been struck. In previous testimony, government DNA expert Dr. Pang Chi-ming testified that "human material" had been found on the bat, but that the DNA matched neither the deceased nor the accused. He stated that the DNA found on the bat belonged to another female. In an odd twist, the bat had been taken from the Kissels' apartment by defense counsel before the police arrived on November 6, 2003, and was not handed over to authorities until the trial was well under way.

Hong Kong Police logo
Hong Kong Police logo

Summations began in late August 2005. Prosecutor Peter Chapman told the jury, "This was a cold-blooded murder." Instead of the life-or-death struggle with a madman that Nancy Kissel had depicted, Chapman said the defendant had used the metal figurine to "inflict the injuries on Robert Kissel as he was lying down," helpless or even unconscious as a result of drinking the potent milkshake she had given him. Her motive, Chapman contended, was "to remove the obstacle in her life that Robert Kissel had become," so that she could make room for her lover Michael Del Priore.

In his summation, defense counsel Alexander King maintained that his client had killed her husband in self-defense in a struggle that began when he announced that he was filing for divorce and taking the children away from her. King further claimed that police investigators had overlooked bloodstains in the apartment that would have proven that a struggle had taken place. King characterized the victim as "unpleasant" and "brutal" and countered the prosecution's contention that the accused's lover Michael Del Priore simply saw a "gold mine" in Nancy Kissel. On the contrary, Del Priore was a confidante and a friend, according to King. The five blows to Robert Kissel's head were Nancy's frantic attempts to subdue him before he hurt her.

After hearing the summations, Judge Michael Lunn instructed the jury to consider the possibility that Nancy Kissel had killed her husband in self-defense without premeditation. He also asked them to keep in mind that "Robert Kissel was well-built... and the defendant is a relatively slightly built female."

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