Nancy Kissel, accused of murdering her banker husband, told a Hong Kong court today he was abusive with her and one of their daughters.
Kissel told the nine-member jury that Robert Kissel, then head of the Asian distressed asset business of Merrill Lynch & Co., once locked himself and their daughter in a room after the child failed to make her bed.
“He picked her up, threw her over his shoulder and threw her into her room,” she said through tears. “She couldn’t come out until she made her bed. He was in there with her, he’d locked the door. I couldn’t do anything. It’s all my fault, everything. I wasn’t strong enough.”
Kissel, 46, then turned to her parents and said: “I couldn’t tell you, I couldn’t tell anybody. I’m so sorry. I could never tell you. Nobody would believe me.”
Her lawyer Edward Fitzgerald, who had been asking about the state of the marriage in the months before she killed him in November 2003, then asked her what she did to protect herself. Kissel said she spiked Robert’s drinks, before sobbing again and talking incoherently about her daughter. Judge Andrew Macrae then adjourned the hearing for a recess.
Prosecutors have rejected Kissel’s guilty plea to manslaughter and alleged she planned his drugging and bludgeoning to death. She was the main beneficiary of his $18 million estate and was having an affair at the time of the killing, they said.
Kissel was convicted of murder in 2005 and appealed all the way to Hong Kong’s top court. It ruled last year the verdict was unfair, ordering a retrial.
Kissel today described a marriage that was “spiraling down” in the months before she killed her husband. On a visit to the family home in Vermont, where she and the children were living during Hong Kong’s severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic outbreak, her husband took cocaine “like aspirin” to work all night because of time zone differences, she said.
She said he increasingly demanded anal sex from her before saying he had been abusive toward their daughter.
Jane Clayton, Robert’s sister who testified earlier for the prosecution, rose and walked out of the courtroom following Kissel’s allegations.
After the recess Kissel recounted being “terrified” of Robert, and incidents where she said he slammed her against a wall, knocked her face into a glass panel, and caused her to bleed after anal sex. When she brought up divorce in September of 2003, her husband threw a chair in the office of their marriage counselor, Ceilidh Halloran, she said.
Kissel said the deteriorating marriage and physical exhaustion from relocating her family in 2003 caused suicidal feelings. She described an instance in which she swallowed sleeping pills before changing her mind.
“I wanted to shut down, to not feel anything. But I was afraid to leave my children so I stuck my fingers and my hand down my throat and threw it all up.”
On the prosecution’s evidence that she had searched for “medications causing heart attack” on the Internet, Kissel said the drugs would have been for herself because her children might have accepted her death by heart attack more than suicide. “I’m not proud of this,” she said.
Kissel said her husband knew about her affair in the summer of 2003 with Michael Del Priore, an electrical technician who worked on the family’s vacation home in Vermont, whom Kissel said was “gentle” and “understanding.”
She wrote in a personal log for their marriage counselor, admitted into evidence, that Robert Kissel told her he could “never trust her again” after learning about the affair.
A manslaughter conviction may mean a sentence of eight to 12 years, Kissel’s lawyers have said. She has already served more than six years in prison. The trial continues on Friday.
The case is HKSAR v. Nancy Ann Kissel, HCCC55/2010 in Hong Kong’s High Court of First Instance.
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