The $18 Million Orphans

The $18 Million Orphans »Play Video
MERCER ISLAND - The story stunned Hong Kong's high society.

It had all the makings of a courtroom thriller: sex, drugs, mental breakdowns and murder.

"It was just too scandalous," says Hong Kong blogger Phil Ingram. " I mean, it was Desperate Housewives for real."

Wealthy American banker Robert Kissel, his wife Nancy and their three children were living the high life. Home was a $20,000 a month luxury apartment. Robert drove a Porsche Carrera.

And their social circle included the world's rich and famous. A photograph of the Kissel's with former President George Bush was prominently displayed in their home.

But soon that perfect world cracked.

In 2003, the SARS outbreak had Hong Kong running scared. To be safe, Nancy took the couple's three children to the Kissel's summer home in upscale Stratton, Vermont.

There, she met TV repairman Michael Del Priore, when he came to the Kissel home to install home theatre equipment.

His world was as humble as hers was high-brow.

Del Priore lived in a trailer just a few miles from the Kissel's multi-million dollar home. The two began a steamy affair.

Suspicious, Robert Kissel dispatched famed private eye Rocco Gatto to spy on his wife and Del Priore.

With the affair confirmed, Robert planned to file for divorce.

Friends say Nancy's reaction was a desperate one. She wanted to hang on to the couples' fortune, their kids and her TV repairman.

"Robert was a beautiful, beautiful man" says William Kissel, Robert's father, "and he was a beautiful, beautiful father. And he tried to be a good husband."

Within months of discovering Nancy's affair, Robert turned up dead. And Nancy was on trial for his murder.

Hong Kong began to gobble up every sordid detail of what prosecutors say was a cold-blooded killing.

As prosecutors tell it, Nancy made her husband a strawberry milkshake laced with powerful sedatives - including the date rape drug rohypnol. Shortly after drinking it, Robert Kissel passed out on the bedroom floor.

Then, prosecutors say, Nancy beat him to death with a heavy lead statue. She concealed his body by rolling it up in the bedroom carpet.

Days later, co-workers at Merrill Lynch reported Robert missing. Police discovered the carpet and the corpse in a storeroom in the couple's high-rise.

"As soon as you thought you'd heard it all, someone came up with something new that completely blew your socks off," says blogger Phil Ingram.

The twist? Nancy claimed self-defense. She told the jury Robert was trying to force her, once again, into rough sex after his usual binging on cocaine and booze. She admits she hit him, but says never meant to kill him.

The jury didn't believe her. The verdict: guilty. The sentence: life.

Just outside Hong Kong's High Court, William Kissel reacted to the verdict and the ugly accusations made during the trial.

"I pray that Robert, that the false allegations against him will now be forgotten and Robert can rest in peace."

What About The Inheritance?

But what about the Kissel children? They'd inherited their father's estate but they were now the $18 million dollar orphans.

They lived for a time with Robert's brother Andrew and his wife Hayley Kissel in upscale Greenwich, Connecticut. But then another scandal.

In New York, Andrew was indicted in a multi-million dollar real estate scam. His soon to be ex-wife Hayley said she'd be glad to take the kids and their fortune.

That's when Robert and Andrew's sister, Jane Kissel Clayton of Mercer Island, stepped in.

With Andrew and Hayley's marriage and finances in shambles, Jane Kissel Clayton argued the children should live with her. After a lengthy battle, A New York judge recently named Jane Clayton the children's temporary guardian.

She'll manage their $18 million dollar fortune.

Clayton's lawyers say it's likely she will also be granted custody of the children and they will come to live with her on Mercer Island.

"Robert's children can now go on and have a wonderful life ahead," says William Kissel.

Many are hoping the children can find some normalcy here in the Northwest, far away from the memory of their father's murder and their mother's betrayal.[Notes:Story]