The Nancy Kissel Case - Part 43

(The Standard)  Kissel 'pain' disproportionate to injury: doctor.  By Albert Wong.  August 13, 2005.

As doctor Annabelle Dytham looked at pictures of Nancy Kissel, caught on closed-circuit television carrying a suitcase, a rug and shopping bags the morning after she allegedly murdered her husband and a day before she expressed "total body pain'' to her, Dytham said: "It's sad to see this.''  Dytham attended Nancy Kissel just 36 hours after what Kissel said was a furious struggle that resulted in the death of her husband.

The physician testified Friday that on November 4, a tearful and distressed Kissel, moving slowly and in pain, left her with the impression she had been assaulted.

When prosecutors showed CCTV pictures of the accused going in and out of the Parkview apartment complex, Dytham said she couldn't judge the speed of movement from the still pictures, and could not see Kissel's facial expressions, but she was "a little surprised'' to see the accused with the rug and the suitcase.  However, she added that "people are known to struggle through all sorts of injuries.''

Dytham told the High Court Friday that she thought the accused to be a "normal mother, good with her children and who communicated well with her children.''  She attended the accused on October 23 and 28 for insomnia, and on November 4 carried out a medical check up on the injuries the accused claimed were caused by her husband.

During cross-examination, Dytham said she never discussed sodomy with the accused, that there was no mention of a baseball bat when Kissel described the assault.  She also remembered feeling frustrated with the patient as "everywhere I touched seemed painful,'' and that the pained reactions seemed "disproportionate to the actual injury.''

Kissel, 41, is accused of serving her husband a pink milkshake laced with sedatives which left him unconscious at the foot of the bed as she bludgeoned him to death with a heavy metal ornament on November 2, 2003 in their Parkview apartment. She denies a charge of murder.  She has testified that there was a furious fight that night, in which she feared for her life as her husband bore down on her swinging a baseball bat, repeatedly saying: "I'm going to kill you, you bitch.''

Kissel has accepted that she killed her husband, but said she cannot recall how she came to inflict five fatal wounds to the side of his head.  She has testified that her husband routinely subjected her to violence and forceful sodomy.

The prosecution has suggested that Kissel's secret lover in the United States, an electrical repairman living in a trailer, considered her a "goldmine'' and noted their frequent communication in the days leading up to the murder and which continued until her arrest. Kissel testified that she had chosen Dytham as one of the first people in Hong Kong to talk to about her marital problems because she was a woman and a professional.

Reading from notes, Dytham said she heard the accused describe on October 23, 2003, how she had been subjected to violence by her husband after an incident a year ago.  She had noted, "alleged assault and subsequent violations.''

During that visit, Kissel told her that she hadn't slept for many nights and that other sleeping pills had so far been ineffective and requested something stronger.  Dytham said it was not her usual practice to prescribe Rohypnol, but that she believed the accused did not drink alcohol and prescribed her 10 tablets.

Rohypnol, the infamous "date-rape'' drug, was one of five sedatives and hypnotics found in the body of the deceased. Dytham's notes say that the accused had described a fight in which her drunken husband chased her around the room, "kicking and grabbing'' after she refused him sex.

Dytham had notes saying she was holding a fork upside down and a glass and that the "puncture wounds'' on the right hand seemed to correspond with wounds that may have come from the points of a fork.

She found various bruises around the body as well as suspected fractures in the ribs and the right hand, although they did not show up in subsequent X-rays. Her conclusion from her notes was that the accused was "slow to move [because of] total body pain.''

Using notes from Dytham's previous medical examinations, Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Peter Chapman noted that in 2002 the accused had filled a form saying she experienced no painful intercourse, was sexually active and had no physical or emotional problems with sex.

(SCMP; no link)  Kissel in total body pain, doctor tells court.  By Polly Hui.  August 13, 2005.

A doctor yesterday described bruises and swelling on the body of Nancy Anne Kissel two days after she is alleged to have murdered her husband, but she said the patient's "subjective thinking" of her pain was "disproportionate" to her actual injuries.

Doctor Annabelle Dytham said the defendant was in "total body pain" and had restricted movement when she saw her in a Wan Chai clinic on November 4, 2003..

"I felt a little frustrated that everywhere I touched, Nancy was painful, [even] in places with no physical injuries," the doctor, who flew from Singapore to give evidence for the defence, said during cross-examination by prosecutor Peter Chapman.

"I am not used to dealing with psychosomatic pain - patients who have pain where there is no actual physical injury."

Kissel, 41, is accused of bludgeoning her husband, Merill Lynch banker Robert Peter Kissel, to death in their Parkview flat on November 2, 2003. She has pleaded not guilty to murder.

Dr Dytham, who had treated Kissel a few times since early 2002, earlier told defence counsel Alexander King SC Kissel had called the clinic at about 8.30am that morning and asked to see her at 9am.

She said that when Kissel arrived at her practice, she walked in a "hunched-over fashion" and started to cry after sitting down. Describing Kissel as "always well-dressed", she said the patient, wearing a pair of dark glasses, white top and black pants, was "not dressed to her usual standard".

Kissel said her husband had attempted to have sex with her in the bedroom but she had declined.

The doctor said Kissel told her the banker had used his "fists and feet only" to inflict injuries on her, and she had defended herself with a fork held the wrong way around.

A physical examination found Kissel had slightly swollen and cracked lips, swollen fingers and puncture wounds on the inner crease of her right hand - which she believed went along with the story of the defence with a fork.

She was bruised from the right to the elbow with finger marks. Her left arm and shoulders were painful to touch but had no bruising and had full-range movement. Kissel also complained of pain in her ribs, collar bones and chest as well as decreased range of movement of her spine and upper thigh. There were bruises - including one 15cm by 7.5cm on her shin - and four markings on her legs. The doctor suspected Kissel had broken ribs and sent her for an X-ray, the results of which were negative.

In cross-examination, Mr Chapman showed closed-circuit television stills indicating Kissel went on several shopping trips and returned home with a suitcase, rug and shopping bags on November 3.  He asked the doctor if the images surprised her.

"I can't see the speed in which Nancy's moving [in the stills] ... I don't know how heavy the suitcase was. There's no facial expression. People are known to be able to struggle through all sorts of injuries," she said.  "I can say I am a little surprised. However, if Nancy had come to me to report injuries on November 4, I could understand a possible exaggeration of the pain given that she had been assaulted and she might want to make a court case out of it."

The doctor recalled Kissel received a phone call in the middle of the consultation and said to the caller "I am with Annabelle at the moment". She heard a younger male's voice on the other end.  Kissel told her it was a good friend from the United States who had given good support. Phone records revealed earlier indicated Kissel had several phone conversations that day with TV repairman Michael Del Priore, her lover in Vermont, including one during her visit to Dr Dytham.

Mr Chapman asked if she had advised Kissel to report to the police. "There was no mention of rape. So, I didn't go down that channel," she said. But she had given a copy of her medical notes to Kissel, thinking they might be of use if she decided to go to the police or ended up in a divorce case.  Kissel handed the notes to officers when she reported the alleged assault by her husband to the police on November 6.

"During her course of description of events, did she mention to you that Robert Kissel had used a weapon to assault her on Sunday?" Mr Chapman asked.  Dr Dytham replied no.

The doctor said she had no problem understanding anything Kissel had said and that she did not believe the patient had difficulties in recollecting what had occurred two days before.

In a consultation on October 23, Kissel had complained to the doctor of suffering from insomnia and marital problems after she commented on how well she looked, Dr Dytham said.  Kissel also told her that she had been assaulted by her husband since late 2002. The doctor's notes recorded "alleged assault" and "subsequent violations" by the deceased as well as Kissel's "low libido".  But she said she had not complained of injuries, anal sex or rape. "At no time did I think she was dangerous to herself or anyone else," Dr Dytham said.

Mr Chapman told Dr Dytham that computer records had shown the accused was making arrangements for breast-lift surgery in the US 45 minutes after the visit to her clinic.

Dr Dytham prescribed Kissel 10 tablets of Rohypnol after she complained Stilnox did not help her sleep. But she said she was not in the habit of prescribing the drug to her patients because it was a strong hypnotic that could cause black-outs in users who drank.

The case continues before Mr Justice Michael Lunn on Monday.

(New York Times)  Backdrop to Fraud Case: Custody Fight and Murder.  By Alison Leigh Cowan.  August 13, 2005.

When Nancy Ann Kissel was arrested in Hong Kong in late 2003 and charged with murdering her wealthy husband after disabling him with a drug-laced milkshake, in a case the newspapers there call the "Milkshake Murder," her three young children suddenly found themselves without parents to care for them. They ended up in the temporary custody of their uncle, a prosperous Greenwich, Conn., real estate developer who promised to provide the "stable, loving home" they needed while their mother's case was resolved.

But the promised haven appears to be in peril. Last month, federal prosecutors charged the children's uncle, Andrew M. Kissel, with orchestrating an elaborate fraud that left banks, title companies and others in his real-estate deals facing tens of millions of dollars in possible losses. His own lawyer has offered up as a defense the explanation that his client, free on $1 million bail and wearing an electronic ankle bracelet, is a "sick man" in need of psychiatric help.

The Manhattan district attorney's office also is investigating Mr. Kissel for having taken more than $3 million of his neighbors' money in the years before he moved to Connecticut, while he was treasurer of a co-op on the Upper East Side. And this year, his wife Hayley, filed for divorce.

"These poor children went from their mother apparently killing their father to this mess," said Michael J. Collesano, the lawyer who was appointed last year by the New York Surrogate's Court to represent the children's interests as their father's will was going through probate there.

Their odyssey began in November 2003, when their father, Robert P. Kissel, an executive at Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong, was found dead, wrapped inside a carpet in the family's storage room. He had left his estate, valued at $18 million, to his "beloved wife," as she was called in his will. Prosecutors in Hong Kong accused Nancy Kissel of having given him a pink milkshake laced with sedatives before she bludgeoned him to death. On the stand last week, the widow made the startling admission that she had killed her husband but testified that the fatal blows were made in self-defense. She also denied putting anything harmful in his milkshake.

After the body was discovered, relatives in the United States arranged for the children to live with Ira A. Keeshin, their maternal grandfather, in Winnetka, Ill., outside Chicago.

Accompanied by their nanny, they arrived on Nov. 22, 2003, and spent two weeks with Mr. Keeshin before he began to complain to relatives that he and his third wife, both in their 60's, were ill-equipped to care for three children under age 10. Court records show he took them to a Holiday Inn in Cincinnati while preparations were made for them to live with his son from his second marriage, an unmarried medical student.

Critical of that decision, Andrew Kissel petitioned Stamford Superior Court for guardianship. The litigation was settled after the families agreed to give Andrew and Hayley Kissel, who also have two children themselves, temporary custody of the children while deferring the more permanent question of guardianship until after Nancy Kissel's trial.

For all the tumult in the Kissel family, the couple continues to care for the children, who are now 5, 8 and 11. "My client is a wonderful mother and is taking very good care of all five children, and I don't think anyone has an issue with that," said Sarah S. Oldham, Hayley Kissel's divorce lawyer.

Lawyers involved in the case recall a consensus that Andrew Kissel's wealth and business success gave his proposal the edge. Also working in his favor, according to Carl D. Bernstein, a lawyer who has been advising the children's paternal aunt, Jane K. Clayton, was that "at the time, it appeared that Andrew and Hayley had a solid, stable marriage and had two kids roughly the age of two of the other three kids. And they were living in Greenwich, in a privileged community, where the kids were likely to be raised well."

Throughout the custody fight, Andrew Kissel argued that he would provide a "stable, loving home." He also vouched that he did not know of any "civil or criminal proceedings" that might color the custody issue and did not volunteer any details of the tumult going on elsewhere in his life. He had made the last of $4.7 million in restitution and other payments to the co-op on Oct. 23, 2003, days before his brother's murder. He spent much of December 2003 on real-estate deals that federal prosecutors now call frauds.

The one party who expressed qualms at that time about placing the children in Greenwich was the children's mother. From the maximum-security psychiatric hospital in Hong Kong where she was being held, Nancy Kissel issued a notarized declaration on Dec. 18, 2003, asking that custody be given to her brother or father. "In no event," she stated, "shall my three children be placed under the care, direction or supervision of Andrew Kissel."

She gave no reason for the request, and her Connecticut lawyer did not return two calls seeking comment in the past week.

While Mr. Kissel gained temporary control of the children, records show he was never given managerial control or a fiduciary role over the brother's will or the children's trusts. "We're making sure that Rob's money is protected for its intended heirs," said Ms. Clayton, who is Robert and Andrew's sister and a co-executor of the will.

Ms. Clayton just returned to her home near Seattle from Hong Kong, where she was attending the trial, and is planning to fly east to revisit the children's situation. "There's not a second that goes by that I'm not thinking about those beautiful children," she said.

There is one passage in the file at surrogate's court that lawyers in the case say might warrant monitoring.

A report prepared by Mr. Collesano, the lawyer for the children, notes that Andrew Kissel told him that he had "independently and without any obligation raised $100,000 in a separate trust fund for my wards through donations. This evidences strong intent to provide the children with financial support for them to receive a proper education and move forward in life."

On Wednesday, Mr. Collesano said he had no idea where the money was and whether it was still available for the children's benefit.

Mr. Kissel's lawyer, Philip Russell, declined to comment.

(The Standard)  Kissel's doctor to continue testimony.  By Albert Wong.  August 15, 2005.

 The doctor who twice treated accused murderer, Nancy Kissel, for sleeping problems in the week before the alleged murder and then again on November 4 following the alleged assault of her husband, will today continue her testimony in the High Court as a defense witness.

The prosecution claims Kissel went on a shopping spree for drugs in the last week of October, visiting separate doctors to acquire the same type of drugs that were later found in the stomach of her late husband, banker Robert Kissel.

On October 23, Annabelle Dytham prescribed 10 tablets of Rohypnol for Nancy Kissel because she was told the milder sleeping tablets had no effect on her.

On October 30, another physician Desmond Fung, who testified last Thursday, prescribed her Stilnox, Amitriptyline and Lorivan, because of her ``very tenacious sleep problem.''

Kissel has testified that she switched from Dytham to Fung, because she realized she should not have been seeing a general practitioner, but a psychiatrist. Dytham testified Friday she had known Kissel to be a ``normal mother, good with her children,'' and believed she had been assaulted when she saw her on November 4 and prepared a report in case it was needed in divorced proceedings.

She also recollected feeling frustrated with Kissel's slow movements and thought her response to be ``disproportionate to the actual injury.''

The prosecution alleges that Kissel, 41, served those sedatives and hypnotics to her husband, disguised in a pink milkshake, which left him unconscious as she bludgeoned him to death on November 2, 2003.

She denies the murder charge and has testified that there was a furious fight that night, in which she feared for her life as her husband bore down on her swinging a baseball bat, repeatedly saying, ``I'm going to kill you, you bitch.''

She has accepted that she killed her husband, but claims she cannot recall how she came to inflict five fatal wounds to the side of his head.

Robert Kissel's decomposing body was found wrapped in a rug and locked in a storeroom at the Parkview residential complex on November 7, 2003.

In her testimony, Kissel claimed her husband was obsessed with money and success, and was a cocaine user who routinely abused her with violence and forceful sodomy, sometimes inebriated with whisky. Kissel said that she had developed a relationship with an American, Michael Del Priore, who frequently repaired electrical appliances in their Vermont home, in July 2003, because he was honest and she felt she could confide in him about the abuse, and her loneliness living in Hong Kong's the small expatriate world.

During cross-examination last week, Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Peter Chapman suggested she never told family or friends about her husband's abuse because there was ``nothing to tell.''

Del Priore, an electrical repairman living in a trailer park, kept up the communication because he considered her a ``goldmine,'' Chapman said. The furious fight which involved her husband swinging a baseball bat at her head, ``just didn't happen'' and that her consequent selective memory loss over that fight and her actions in the days leading up to her arrest, was a lie, Chapman said.

On Monday, Kissel said she was not trying to paint a bad picture of her husband and declared: ``I still love him, he was my husband.''

She said she never thought about approaching anyone about her marital problems because it was a gradual change, and it was something she had accepted.

Furthermore, forceful sodomy was not something you brought up at the dinner table or during social events, she said. Chapman said she failed to tell her long-time friend Bryna O'Shea, ``because it wasn't happening'' and didn't tell anyone else about it ``because there was nothing to tell.''

She did not tell her chief psychiatrist in Siu Lam psychiatric center because ``he was mostly interested in my medication and my day-to-day life in Siu Lam,'' she said.

On Tuesday, Chapman suggested that Kissel knew the knowledge of her affair would hamper her chances in divorce proceedings and so she went shopping for drugs, while maintaining intensive communication with Del Priore.

Kissel said there was more frequent communication with Del Priore during this period because the abuse she was suffering from her husband was also intensifying. Throughout the trial, the prosecution has claimed that Nancy Kissel was the primary beneficiary of the deceased's life insurance policies. Robert Kissel's sister, Jane Clayton estimated his estate to be worth US$18 million (HK$140 million). On Wednesday, Chapman said Kissel had told ``plain simple lies'' about what happened to her husband in the days leading up to her arrest.

He said her present claims of memory loss about those days was ``equally a lie'' since she had no problem relating a version of events on that fatal night, albeit a different one, to Dytham on November 4.

Defense witnesses will testify this week before Justice Michael Lunn.