The Nancy Kissel Case - Part 8

(The Standard)  Kissel breaks down in court.  By Albert Wong.  June 16, 2005.

Accused murderer Nancy Kissel broke down in tears after a close friend gave evidence for the prosecution Wednesday.  Samantha Kriegel, a member of the same United Jewish Congregation on Robinson Road as Kissel and her murdered husband Robert, said the accused was a devoted mother whose life revolved around her three children.

Kissel, 40, is on trial for drugging and murdering her husband in 2003.  Kriegel called her friend creative, intelligent and an accomplished photographer, who was dedicated to volunteering at the children's school and took "beautiful photos of her kids.''  As Kriegel left the courtroom, she mouthed some words of comfort and gave a supportive wave to her friend. For the first time, Kissel broke down in tears.

Kriegel had known the accused for more than a year when Merrill Lynch banker Robert Kissel's decomposing body was found wrapped in plastic film and rolled in a rug in the family storeroom at their luxury Parkview home.  The two women were involved in organizing a black-tie fundraising gala for the United Jewish Congregation scheduled for December 2003. Kriegel praised the accused's enthusiasm.

On Saturday, November 1, 2003, a day before the alleged murder, the accused was hired to take pictures of Kriegel's children in the Parkview garden area. Kriegel said "she was talking to the kids, keeping them in good humor as the morning went on,'' and showed great patience. The kids liked her, she added.

The prosecution alleges that the following day, Kissel served her husband a cocktail of drugs in a pink milkshake which left him unconscious as she bludgeoned him to death with a heavy metal figurine.

The following Thursday, Kriegel said she received a call from Kissel, who was very upset and said she could not continue her work on the gala because "she was dealing with issues about Rob's health.''  At mid-morning, Kriegel went to collect the invitations for the gala, which were still at the Kissel residence. When the accused answered the door, she was wearing dark glasses and "looked terrible,'' said Kriegel, who noticed relocation boxes, which the prosecution alleges were used to pack away incriminating evidence.

Kriegel asked if she was planning to return to the United States because of her husband's health. Kissel cried in response. Realizing there was a crisis, Kriegel said she did not inquire any further.  But even then, Kissel was trying to think about the gala and worrying that the RSVPs were still addressed to the Kissel residence, said Kriegel.

Under cross-examination by senior counsel Gary Plowman, Kriegel confirmed Kissel's work at the children's Hong Kong International School was a very important part of her life.  "Did she ever mention to you that her husband had forbidden her to be further involved at HKIS?'' asked Plowman. "No'' replied Kriegel.

A former neighbor of the Kissels, Kazuko Ouchi, also completed her testimony Wednesday.  On Tuesday, Ouchi's husband, Andrew Tanzer, testified that he had visited the victim on the day he died and shared the spiked milkshake with him before returning home. Ouchi said her husband could barely recall the events that followed his consumption of the milkshake.

Another former neighbor told the jury he had seen the victim playing with his son at the Parkview clubhouse between 4.30pm and 5pm Sunday, November 2, at least half an hour after Robert Kissel drank his milkshake.  When questioned by Plowman, David Friedland said they chatted and when he left, "Rob was in a chair with his feet up on the phone,'' he said. The banker then signaled "OK'' as a parting gesture, said Friedland.

Also Wednesday, Maximina Macaraeg, a domestic helper for the Kissels, confirmed she was told not to tidy up the main bedroom in the days following Kissell's death.  She also said she had noticed an injury to Nancy Kissel's right hand between the thumb and forefinger and that the accused had said she had hurt herself while using the oven.  The day after the alleged murder, Kissel told her she had had an argument with the victim and that he had gone to stay at a hotel, said Macaraeg.

Prosecutor Peter Chapman asked Macaraeg to look at photos taken from the Parkview security cameras at 2am on Monday, November 3.  Chapman then asked whose image was on the photos. Macaraeg replied "that's Mrs Kissel.'' The prosecution has said the photos were taken in the car park but has not offered a theory about what she was doing.  Macaraeg will continue to give evidence before Justice Michael Lunn today.

(SCMP)  Maid told not to clean bedroom, court hears.  By Polly Hui.  June 16, 2005.

The wife of a top American banker ordered her maid not to clean the master bedroom and sent her on a series of unusual errands - including buying a nylon rope and clearing out a storeroom - in the days after she allegedly murdered her husband, the Court of First Instance was told yesterday.

Maximina Macaraeg, one of two domestic helpers working for the family of Robert Peter Kissel, said Nancy Ann Kissel told her to skip the couple's bedroom when she was about to start her daily cleaning of the luxury Parkview flat on November 3, 2003.

"The door to the master bedroom was closed... She told me to just leave it," said Ms Macaraeg.

Kissel, 40, has pleaded not guilty to murdering her husband on or about November 2, 2003. The prosecution alleges she served him a drugged milkshake before bludgeoning him to death that Sunday.

The maid, who had worked for the Kissels since 2000, also recalled last seeing Robert Kissel at a Parkview car park shortly after 5pm on that Sunday.

When Ms Macaraeg returned to the flat about an hour later, she saw the door of the master bedroom slightly ajar, the court heard. She said Kissel told her to tell the children to be quiet because their father "was sleeping in the room".

The helper said Kissel told her she burnt herself on the oven when she asked about a bandage on her right hand on the following Tuesday. The accused again ordered her not to clean the master bedroom. "She told me they had a fight. Mr Kissel left the house and is staying in a hotel," Ms Macaraeg said.

On Wednesday morning while tending to the Kissels' youngest son, Ms Macaraeg said Kissel "all of a sudden" ordered her to take out all the boxes from a storeroom she rented in another block in Parkview and put them in the corridor. The body of her husband, who worked for banking giant Merrill Lynch, was found rolled up in a carpet in that storeroom in November 2003.

The accused then sent her to the Adventist Hospital to buy a Velcro belt, saying her ribs were hurting. When she returned to the flat, Kissel sent her out to a hardware store in Stanley to buy rope. She bought a piece of red-and-white bundled nylon the width of a little finger.

Closed-circuit TV images played to the jury yesterday showed a woman, identified by the maid as Kissel, entering and exiting her flat numerous times on November 3.

Images captured at about 2am showed Kissel going down to the car park and taking the lift back up to the flat in less than 15 minutes. It also showed her carrying a rug and a big suitcase in two separate instances that afternoon.

Samantha Kriegel, a friend of the accused, told the court Kissel called her on November 6 and asked if she could take over a fund-raising event she had been organising for the United Jewish Congregation. "She was very distraught ... she said she was dealing with issues about Robert's health," she said.

She had met the defendant's father, Ira Keeshin, who she thought had just arrived from the US, during her brief visit to the Kissels' flat that morning to pick up the invitation cards for the event. "She looked terrible ... and seemed like she has been under lots of stress."

Ms Kriegel said Kissel had asked her on the phone not to mention her husband's situation while in the flat for fear that "she will breakdown in front of the children". Kissel, who has often been expressionless during the trial, was in tears when the witness left the court.

The case continues today.

From the Chinese-language media:

(Photo: The Sun)

(The Sun)  The Kissels' Filipina maid Maximina Padrid Macaraeg testified that on the afternoon of November 2, 2003, Nancy Kissel asked her to bring the children out to play in the park.  In the parking lot, she encountered Robert Kissel on his way home.  She borrowed his watch in order to make sure that she brings the children home on time.  At the time, Robert Kissel told her to take good care of the children.  She did not see Robert Kissel afterwards.  When Robert Kissel did not appear that evening, Nancy explained that he had gone to bed.

Another female friend Suzara Serquina testified that the defendant Nancy Kissel left her a message on November 6 on a matter of urgency.  When she called the next day, Nancy Kissel said that she had some family matters to take care of and therefore had to ask her friend to take over her voluntary work at the International School.  Later, she went to Nancy Kissel's home and saw that she was distressed.  She also observed many packing boxes there.

(Photo: Apple Daily)