The Nancy Kissel Case - Part 9

(The Standard)  Murder suspect 'could not forgive,' maid tells court.  By Albert Wong.  June 17, 2005.

Nancy Kissel was a "a person who could not forgive,'' her former maid told the High Court in the eighth day of the milkshake murder trial.  If you made a mistake, "she would hate you,'' said Maximina Macaraeg, the family's domestic helper at the time Merrill Lynch banker Robert Kissel was allegedly slain by his wife.  Prosecutor Peter Chapman asked Macaraeg to elaborate and she said the accused was prone to tantrums. She "would bang the door, or whatever she saw, she would bang it.''

Nancy Kissel is accused of serving a milkshake laced with sedatives to her husband before beating him to death with a heavy metal figurine in 2003.  The victim's decomposing body was found wrapped in a rug and stashed in a storeroom at the Parkview apartments, Tai Tam, November 7, 2003. Kissel, 40, has pleaded not guilty and is out on bail.

Macaraeg, one of two former maids, testified Thursday about the Kissels' deteriorating marriage and strange activity in the days after the alleged murder, which the prosecution claims was the wife's attempt at a cover-up.  The victim, said Macaraeg, was "good, calm, loving, kind.'' Nancy Kissel was also "a good woman,'' but had a hot temper. Macaraeg said she had no idea about the banker's drinking habits and had never seen evidence of violence or injury done to the accused.

Describing the Kissels' marriage, she said, "When I just arrived [in 2000] they were happy. But what I observed from the end of 2003, there was no sweetness anymore.  "I could see that they didn't talk together front to front and when Mr Kissel moved, say took a trip, Mrs Kissel would never go, say goodbye or ever kiss.''

When questioned by defense counsel, Macaraeg said she thought the accused favored the other helper. Her relationship with the accused, she said, was strictly employer and employee.  "You wouldn't have counted her as a close friend,'' said senior counsel Gary Plowman, and the accused "would not have discussed any personal problems she might have had with you.'' Macaraeg agreed.

The other helper and Nancy Kissel had been friends, said Plowman, and Macaraeg only arrived in 2000, shortly after the birth of the third child. Other witnesses testified the accused had started to act distant and depressed after the birth of that child.

Macaraeg said that Wednesday, November 5, 2003, two days after the alleged murder, she saw two new carpets in the living room. As she went over to appreciate the new carpets she said she noticed an old rug rolled up at the back of the couch. "When I saw it, I felt uncomfortable,'' said Macaraeg.

She said she asked the accused why the rug was so big and was told it was filled up with old pillowcases and bedsheets.  "I left. But my feeling was not right,'' said Macaraeg. "I did not believe it.''  For the rest of the day, Macaraeg was "not at ease'' and phoned the other maid to say "Mrs Kissel might have done something wrong to Mr Kissel,'' but the other helper did not believe her.

According to Macaraeg, she could hear the accused "packing the carpet'' because the sticky tape was making a noise. It took four men and a trolley from the Parkview maintenance department to carry the rug to the storeroom.  

The Kissels' youngest son opened the door for the men and made it known that there was a foul odor as the carpet went past him, said Macaraeg.  "I said 'come here,' and when I went to pull him away, I also smelled something,'' she said.

Shown a picture of the rolled-up carpet, Macaraeg said she recognized the white rope used to bind the rug together.

"How do you recognize the rope''? asked Chapman.  Macaraeg replied, "That's what I bought in Stanley, as instructed by Mrs Kissel.''  Macaraeg also identified bloodstained towels and bedsheets found packed in relocation boxes but usually kept in the master bedroom.

Macaraeg spoke mostly in the Philippines dialect Ilocano and communicated through a translator.

The case continues this afternoon.

(The Standard)  Helper tags blood-stained home items.  By Albert Wong.  June 17, 2005.

A heavy metal ornament allegedly used to bludgeon to death an already unconscious Robert Kissel, was shown to the public for the first time on day eight of the milkshake murder trial.  Two figurines, which would normally be attached to a metal base to form a single ornament, were displayed Thursday on the clerk's desk and examined by the jury as they filed past.

Counsel for accused murderer Nancy Kissel was also invited to examine the alleged murder weapon, but declined.  "Very well,'' said High Court judge Michael Lunn, "I'm going down to look at it myself.''  Although each figurine is only the size of a clenched fist, "it's really heavy,'' testified a former domestic helper for the Kissel family.

Other blood-stained items found packed in either black bags or relocation boxes were shown to the Kissels' former domestic helper Maximina Macaraeg to identify.

She was also asked to identify the items in photographs.  Sitting sideways, with her back to the defense counsel and the accused, a visibly distressed Macaraeg glanced at the pictures only long enough to identify them.

Senior assistant director of public prosecutions Peter Chapman warned that some of the close-up pictures of the rug wrapping the decomposing body might be disturbing.  "Are you able to deal with these now?'' he asked.  She replied: "The face of Mr Kissel - I don't want to see it.''

In the longest testimony by a witness so far, Macaraeg confirmed through the photographs that the T-shirt draped on the body of Robert Kissel was similar to the clothing he usually wore to bed or around the house. The judge had preselected the photographs before presenting them to the witness for examination.

When Chapman pointed out the stains on the master bedcover, Macaraeg said, "I didn't see that before when I was fixing the bed.''

In between each photograph, Macaraeg held her head in her hands, rubbing her eyes.

When shown a picture of the foot of the master bed, Chapman asked, "How is it different?''  She replied, "It was covered by a brown cover,'' which now seemed to have been removed or cut off, said Chapman, completing the sentence.

The prosecution alleges Kissel had lain defenseless and sedated at the foot of the master bed as his wife bludgeoned him to death on the night of November 2, 2003.

Macaraeg also confirmed that the Kissel family had strawberry ice cream in the fridge that day.

Former Parkview neighbor of the Kissels, Andrew Tanzer, testified Tuesday that he and the victim had both been served milkshake by the accused that seemed to have strawberry flavoring. He said the drink resulted in him acting like a baby and waking the following morning suffering from "something like amnesia.''

A sleeping bag that formed part of the packaging around the corpse was also identified by Macaraeg as belonging to the Kissel children.

During cross-examination, Macaraeg refused to face the defense counsel and look in the direction of the accused.  The judge said it was up to the witness where she wanted to look.

Her cross-examination will continue this afternoon.

(SCMP)  Kissel boy complained of smell as carpet taken from flat, court told.  By Polly Hui.  June 17, 2005.

The four-year-old son of top American banker Robert Peter Kissel had no idea that his father's corpse was being carried past as he held open the door of the family's Parkview apartment so four workmen could wheel out a "smelly" rolled up carpet, the Court of First Instance heard yesterday.

Maximina Macaraeg, a domestic helper for the family, told the court the boy, the youngest of the three Kissel children, groaned from the smell when the men from Parkview's housekeeping office pushed their old carpet out on a trolley on the afternoon of November 5, 2003.

"It seemed that he smelled something funny. I pulled him [to me] and said: 'Come here.' As I pulled him, I also smelled [something] smelly," she said.

Testifying on the eighth day of a 40-day jury trial, Ms Macaraeg said that defendant Nancy Ann Kissel had ordered her to tell the workmen to move items, including the carpet, her husband's golf clubs and a cabinet in the master bedroom, to a storeroom she rented two blocks away. The defendant had told the maid she was tired and would retire to her bedroom when the workmen came.

The prosecution witness said the head workman asked her "why was it that the carpet ... was smelly?" when he returned with the key of the storeroom after finishing the job.

The defendant, 40, is accused of bludgeoning her husband to death after serving him a spiked milkshake on November 2, 2003. Police later recovered the body of the Merrill Lynch banker from the rolled up carpet in the Parkview storeroom. She has pleaded not guilty to murdering him.

Ms Macaraeg recalled she was admiring the two new carpets she found in the living room on the morning of November 5 when she saw the old carpet - which used to cover the floor of the living room - rolled up behind the couch. "When I saw it, I felt uncomfortable. Because I wanted to get rid of the bad feeling, I asked her: `What was that?'" Ms Macaraeg said. Kissel told her pillows and bed sheets were wrapped in the rug.

But the maid said she did not believe her because the old carpet roll was "so big". The maid said she called the other helper at the house, Connie, and told her that "Mrs Kissel might have done something wrong to Mr Kissel". The defendant had earlier told her that the deceased had an argument with her and was staying in a hotel.

The witness was asked to identify a large number of items seized from cardboard boxes in the flat, including the metal ornament alleged by the prosecution to be the murder weapon. The object had a base about 15cm wide with two needles sticking up and two detached figurines of two girls kneeling in their dresses.  Ms Macaraeg said the ornament, which was also examined by Mr Justice Michael Lunn and the seven jury members, was originally placed on top of the cabinet in the master bedroom.

The helper yesterday described Kissel as a "good woman" with a "hot temper". "If you made a mistake, she would bang the door or whatever she sees," she said.  But Ms Macaraeg said the defendant's temper only emerged in early 2002. She also observed a change in the couple's relationship, saying there was no more "sweetness" between them in early 2003.

The witness agreed when Gary Plowman SC, for the defence, asked her if she thought Kissel was more generous to Connie, who had worked for the family longer, than to her. She refused to look directly at Mr Plowman all the way through yesterday's cross-examination, even at the request of the counsel.  Ms Macaraeg was also shown the contents of the boxes in photos, including blood-stained bed sheets and towels. But she refused to look at the pictures of the face of the deceased.

The case continues today.

(Photo: Oriental Daily)