48 Hours Mystery: The murder of Andrew Kissel

Who killed a real estate mogul charged with swindling $40 million?

The competitive Kissel brothers had each found success. Andrew was a real estate developer in Greenwich, Conn. His younger brother, Robert, was a high flying investment banker in Hong Kong.

By 2003, Robert Kissel was one of Merrill Lynch's top guys in Southeast Asia.

Frank Shea was Robert's friend.

"He was - one of the best out there, and he loved his job," says Shea.

He was earning millions. Robert, his wife, Nancy, and their three children lived in a sprawling apartment in a luxury complex overlooking Hong Kong.

"Nancy seemed very happy. ...She always tried to please Rob. She was always very proud of what he achieved, says Trudy Samra, a neighbor who became a close friend. "On the outside world it appeared she had the perfect life."

But in early November 2003, Robert suddenly disappeared.

"And she said to me, 'Something terrible has happened," Samra recalls. "...but she sounded distraught. She sounded very upset."

A colleague at work reported him missing. Police went to the Kissel's apartment to investigate. When they searched the family storage unit, they found boxes of bloody items and a rolled up carpet.

Inside the carpet was Robert Kissel's body. He had been bludgeoned to death; his head bashed five times.

Police investigators quickly focused on Nancy, and within hours she was arrested and charged with murder.

"They said that she had murdered him. I - I just couldn't believe that. Not the Nancy I knew. She wouldn't do that," insists Samra.

As investigators soon discovered, Robert Kissel's life, much like his older brother Andrew's in Connecticut, was nothing like it appeared.

In Robert's case, it was during the SARS epidemic when his wife and children fled to Vermont that he began to suspect something was wrong with his marriage. Robert hired private investigator Frank Shea to spy on Nancy.

"Rob thought there was - something going on between Nancy and someone," says Shea.

Robert was right," says Shea. Nancy was having an affair with a local TV equipment installer.

"Rob Kissel was devastated," Shea says. "All he wanted to do was get his marriage back together."

Nancy returned to Hong Kong, but Robert discovered she was still secretly in touch with her lover.

"The last time you talked to Robert Kissel, was he planning on obtaining a divorce?" Moriarty asks Shea.

"Yes," he replies. "He said that - the marriage was over."

According to friends, Robert intended to tell Nancy that on Nov. 2, 2003 - the night he was murdered.

The case captivated Hong Kong. Albert Wong covered the story for the English language daily, The Standard.

"I think it really hit home with a lot of people in Hong Kong," he says. "It was a glimpse of a world that they - that they're not used to."

Robert Kissel's stylish blond wife was almost unrecognizable as a brunette when she went on trial in 2005.

"Nancy Kissel was always dressed in black," Wong says. "A typical widow look as it were."

The prosecution's theory was simple: "They say it was a cold-blooded murder. That this was no accident," explains Wong.

There was evidence Nancy had been researching and stockpiling various sedatives - and they had a witness. Just hours before Robert was murdered, Andrew Tanzer, a journalist and neighbor, says Nancy made the two men a special milkshake.

"It had some strange taste ... which I could not recognize," Tanzer tells Erin Moriarty.

"Do you think Nancy Kissel added drugs to your milkshake?"

"Oh, that I'm pretty certain," he says.

In fact, an autopsy would reveal five different drugs in Robert Kissel's system, including Rophynol, known as the date rape drug.

"What do you believe happened the night that Rob Kissel was killed?" Moriarty asks Shea.

"I think he was drugged," he replies. "I think that he went into his bedroom. I think he passed out. I think Nancy Kissel, then, took a bronze statue and murdered him."

When Nancy took the stand she told a different story: she said it was self-defense.

"She really thought he was gonna kill her," Wong says. "He came at her with a baseball bat. There was a struggle. He turns her around. And it's at this point that she just swings back. And he kind of sits back and looks at the blood and says, 'You bitch.' And then charges at her with the baseball bat. 'I'm going to kill you. I'm going to kill you.' And she said, then she just blanks out."

Nancy testified that for years Robert had subjected her to physical and sexual abuse. Trudy Samra remembers seeing suspicious injuries.

"[The] first time she had a rib injury," she recalls. "And one time we had a girls' night here. She came in. And I said, 'Wow, what happened to you?' And she had a big, big blue eye."

But Nancy never told Samra she was being abused and Frank Shea doesn't buy Nancy's defense.

"Do you believe that Robert Kissel abused his wife?" Moriarty asks Shea.

"No, not for a second," he says. "In fact ... given the amount of drugs that were in his system ... there is no way he could've defended himself - no less attacked somebody."

It took the jury eight hours to convict Nancy Kissel of murder. She was sentenced to life in a Chinese prison.

Andrew Kissel, who briefly attended the trial, was clearly devastated by the loss of his only brother. But things were only going to get worse.