Even the most discontented family in the world has a vision of happiness. And so, in the Kissel family, people liked to look back at their times at Stratton Mountain in Vermont. “We skied together,” says Bill Kissel, the father. “It’s a family sport.” The Kissels had one house, and when Bill made his money, they built a bigger one, Dad’s gift to the family. Then, as often as possible, it was a speedy getaway in Bill’s Cadillac. From their New Jersey home, it was just a few hours to Vermont.
Bill likes to recall those times. Bill’s wife, Elaine, whom everyone adored, was still alive. The house was abuzz with kids. Bill’s children brought their friends along, then showed off for them. All three Kissel kids were great skiers, though Rob was the best. Everyone remembered his slalom racing and how he sometimes joined his sister, Jane, who did ballet on skis. Andrew liked to bring his girlfriend and taught her to ski.
Bill, now 78, has photos on his desk in Florida, where he moved years ago, snapshots of the kids during the Vermont years. “I have a picture of Andrew with his mother when he was 2 years old, adorable,” says Bill by phone one day. He says that Andrew had a light in his eyes. “Life started out beautifully for all of us. We were a happy family.”
But that was long ago. Before Rob was murdered by his wife—drugged, bludgeoned, wrapped in a rug, and thrown in storage with used odds and ends—and before the nasty public battle between Andrew, his sister, his wife, his father, his brother’s father-in-law over custody of the kids. It was before Andrew was indicted for a host of swindles and facing years in prison. And before he was found stabbed to death in his basement, a T-shirt pulled over his head, his wife a possible suspect. Andrew’s murder last month was the final blow. Vermont, with its happiness, seemed out of another lifetime. A lifetime before people started to wonder if the Kissel family was cursed.
The tragedy of the Kissels is, in ways, a story about a father and his sons, Rob and Andy (as they were called as children). Rob was the extrovert, the more readily likable. Most things seemed to come easily to Rob, younger than Andy by four years. He was taller, better looking, and the superior athlete. Andy was bright but somewhat bored in school, and didn’t make it to college till a couple of years after high-school graduation. Rob got A’s with what to his friends seemed little work. “Everything Rob did was natural with him,” says Bill, who readily lists his exceptional qualities. “At age 5, he could calculate things in his mind.” For Bill, Rob’s character was exemplary, too. “Robert is the man I would have liked to have been,” says Bill.
Bill can offer compliments about Andy too. “Andy was very successful, very bright, and very creative,” says Bill, who quickly adds, “He was in a hurry.” For Bill, it’s this last impression that endures. One son was an achiever, the other sniffed for shortcuts. Bill recalls how he gave his two teenage sons credit cards. With his, Rob bought a pair of cheap shoes from Sears. Andy purchased a fur jacket. “I don’t know if the money was the important thing for Andy,” he says, “or what it said about you.”
Later, Andy would tell friends that he hadn’t ever been close with his father. Bill never did know if Andy graduated from college—he attended Boston University. Perhaps Andy felt shunned, the second-place finisher in a two-brother race. Andy once told a friend that his father belittled and humiliated him. Apparently, for Andy, the feeling went way back. One of his oft-repeated stories was how the brothers would race through dinner rather than linger with a difficult father.
Whatever frictions existed, Andy’s father provided the family with a comfortable life, and later a very comfortable life. Bill was a chemist, “a tinkerer,” he says modestly. When his business, Synfax, which made toner for copiers, took off, he moved the family into a 7,500-square-foot Saddle River home on a couple of acres of land. It had a swimming pool, a semicircular driveway, and a three-car garage that held Bill’s Cadillac and his wife’s Mercedes. Soon there was also a boat.
Perhaps the family’s sudden rise in status intrigued Andy. He seemed precociously attuned to the impression fancy things made. In high school, he owned a Jeep and a souped-up Chevy Le Mans. Lots of teenage boys like cars. With Andy, they seemed, in part, a prop for his personality. People couldn’t always get a fix on Andy. Says one friend, “You had to choose to like Andy if you wanted to find the goodness in him.” And not everyone made the commitment. To many, Andy seemed aloof. It was sad. “He really fundamentally wanted to be liked,” says the friend. Maybe, as he rumbled into the school parking lot in his Le Mans, it seemed he was.
Doriane, his high-school girlfriend, painted flames on the Le Mans and even helped with mechanical work. “I was voted best-looking in high school, and here I am with Wolfman Jack, fixing an alternator,” she says. They dated for five years, long enough for Doriane to enjoy Andy’s generous side. One day, she lamented how she didn’t have a car. So Andy bought her one. “He spent, I think, $500 in 1977,” she says. “It took a long time to start it up in the morning, but I was thrilled. My boyfriend bought me a car!”
A few years later, Doriane and Andy met up again, this time in New York. She lived on the Upper East Side with a boyfriend. Andy moved in as a roommate. By then, he had changed. “He’d gone from being Andy to Andrew,” she says. Andy had been endearing, funny, vulnerable, at times giving. Andrew was an up-and-comer enamored of status signifiers. “His self-esteem came from what he had around him,” says Doriane. He was a commercial-real-estate agent at an unprestigious firm. But he already had a Porsche. He loved restaurants. “He had a different air,” she says. He wanted Doriane to hold her fork differently, correctly, and to speak formally. If you asked Andrew to call you, he’d answer, “I shall.”
“Stop it!” Doriane teased him. “I know Andy!” Where had Andy gone? The change didn’t surprise Doriane, but it saddened her. “Oh, no,” she thought, “being Andrew is going to be a full-time job.”
Andrew met Hayley Wolff at Stratton. Hayley had been Jane’s ski coach, and later Jane introduced the two. In 1992, Andrew and Hayley, newly married, moved into a one-bedroom, $295,000 co-op apartment at 200 East 74th Street. Hayley was a blonde Ivy Leaguer—University of Pennsylvania, then Columbia Business School—sporty-looking, striking. She’d grown up in New York in a well-to-do family—her father is CEO of Louis Berger, a $500 million engineering firm in New Jersey. Hayley’s parents, too, had a house in Vermont, and Hayley was a superstar skier. She loved to compete, and in 1983, she became the women’s world mogul champion. Finance, though, was her field; in a few years she was on track to be an analyst for Merrill Lynch.
Not long after he and Hayley were married, Andrew launched his own company. “He’d always wanted to be in real estate,” says Bill. And, perhaps, like his father, he wanted to be in business for himself. Andrew called his company Hanrock. Rob had helped with the business plan, and maybe that’s why Andrew used the first letters of Hayley, Andrew, Nancy (his brother’s new wife), and Rob in the name. Hanrock purchased small apartment buildings in “under-the-radar neighborhoods,” as he told his father, mostly in Hudson County, New Jersey.
Rob eventually kicked in $500,000—a gesture of brotherly support, perhaps. He could afford it. After business school at NYU, Rob had gone to work for Goldman Sachs, which shipped him to Hong Kong in 1997, a spectacular moment to land in Asia. The region was in economic collapse. You could buy up debt for cents on the dollar, turn around and sell it for two or three times that amount. Rob loved “spending someone else’s money,” as he told a friend. And he was good at it. In 2000, Merrill Lynch hired him away. Rob, says one competitor, “was one of the best-respected investors in Asia after the crisis.”
For a time, one Kissel brother seemed to outdo the other. Rob was a financial whiz; Andrew’s real-estate ventures might not be sexy, but as even his father says, “He was doing well.” The brothers weren’t always close; for one thing, Rob’s wife didn’t get along with Andrew (or with Hayley or Bill, for that matter). Plus Andrew had that wild spending streak—sometimes he’d disappear from a group only to show up later in a limo; Rob kept a tighter rein on his finances. At times, Rob asked his wife for receipts on even minor outlays. Still, they both drove Porsches, and each bought a vacation house in Vermont, a few miles from one another. Rob, a hard charger, seemed to appreciate their mutual success. As a friend of Rob’s says, “Rob respected Andrew on a certain level because he was doing really well.”
It was a view shared by Andrew’s neighbors at East 74th Street. Andrew impressed people with his cars. One was a $60,000 Mercedes E320 4matic station wagon; Andrew spent another $25,000 to redo the interior. And there were larger, more impressive expenditures. He bought two more apartments—one below his; another adjacent—and combined them into a single sprawling unit that was the showpiece of the building. Apparently, Andrew could easily cover the costs. He let slip that he was worth $20 million. As a favor, he even agreed to let a couple of neighbors invest in his New Jersey properties.
To some, Andrew’s obvious success suggested financial savvy. By 1995, he was serving as the co-op’s treasurer. For convenience he had bills and bank statements sent directly to him. Also, perhaps, for convenience, he became the only person who signed off on checks for the co-op.
To most, Andrew seemed to do a fine job; he was famously attentive to detail. Soon, though, some people began to wonder why the modest building spent more than $1 million to redo the lobby and hallways, as the financial report indicated.
“Anyone who thought about it would know that a million dollars of work hadn’t been done,” says one resident, Michael Assael, a lawyer and CPA.
In 2002, Assael got himself elected to the board and joined the finance committee. Andrew chaired it and recruited his neighbor David Parisier, who, after an introduction from Rob, became Andrew’s partner in Hanrock that same year.
Assael bombarded Andrew with questions.
“You’re an evil man, and I would say that you’ll get what you deserve,” Hayley said to Bill. Then she remembered his son had been murdered. “Well, you already got what you deserve.”
Andrew’s answers were short, deflecting, impatient. “To some people on the board, Andrew seemed sophisticated,” says Assael. “To me, he was a big phony baloney.” Assael’s tone grew increasingly aggressive. “Are you sure our accountant didn’t mix our co-op’s invoices up with Manhattan House?” he asked in one e-mail, referring to one of the fancier buildings in the neighborhood.
Then at one finance meeting in 2003, Assael remembers, “Andrew knew we caught him.”
“I just want to get this over with,” Andrew told the committee. “I think I need some Valium.”
Andrew, it turned out, had created fake companies, paid them inflated fees for work, and transferred the profits to his own bank account. He had also opened up a line of credit for the co-op. He had forged signatures, cut-and-pasted bank statements, and eventually borrowed $2 million under the co-op’s name.
Andrew’s motivation was puzzling. After all, he seemed to be making good money in New Jersey, where his company controlled millions of dollars of property. He mentioned to Parisier something about a cash-flow crunch. Eventually, Andrew reached a confidential settlement with the co-op and coughed up $4.7 million.
In February 2003, Andrew had moved to Greenwich; Hayley stayed behind with their two kids until the school year finished. Hayley told friends that she didn’t know why Andrew made a sudden exit. She said she didn’t hear of the scandal till May. Even when Andrew transferred title of their Vermont house to Hayley a couple of days after the co-op’s May audit, Hayley’s only thought was that she loved the Vermont house and loved having it in her name. “Wives don’t know,” she told a friend. When Hayley finally found out about the scandal, she began sneaking down ten flights of stairs to avoid her neighbors.
Hayley sometimes said she believed that “underneath all the crap, there was a core Andrew that wanted to be a good person.” Unfortunately, it was hard to see. Maybe it was because of his mood swings, or his cocaine use, which several friends recalled. Andrew could seem wired or else retreat into the TV. Emotionally, he didn’t always participate; occasionally, he didn’t even show up. One friend remembers that he’d miss dates—sometimes he’d stand up Hayley. Hayley, who liked therapeutic explanations, told a friend that Andrew suffered from bipolar moods, addictive personality, low self-esteem, or, as she sometimes summed it up, “too much baggage.” She blamed his childhood. These were among the reasons, as Hayley saw it, that their marriage had been problematic for years. And so she said she didn’t mind when Andrew decamped for Connecticut.
Greenwich is a place where people go to be wealthy, and Andrew quickly made himself at home. By June, when Hayley and the two kids joined him, he seemed to have put New York behind him. He’d sold the 74th Street apartment at a huge profit and rented a giant house in Greenwich. It had a swimming pool and a large piece of land and cost $14,000 a month. In short order, Andrew appeared to be a leading citizen of Greenwich.
Just as Andrew seemed to outdistance his financial entanglements, trouble of a more ominous sort descended on Rob. For years, Rob and his wife acted like a great, fun couple. Nancy hadn’t been wild about moving to Hong Kong, and Rob worked grueling hours and traveled constantly. But he earned tons, and they had a lavish lifestyle. Merrill Lynch paid $20,000 a month to house them in an exclusive expat development; it was like a resort, with three swimming pools. And Nancy, who came from a modest background, loved the money. She was like Andrew in that way. “The more money she got, the more she wanted to spend it,” says one of her best friends.
Starting out, Nancy and Rob had struggled together—Nancy had managed a Caliente Cab Co. in New York—but lately, Rob was so important. As with Andrew, money seemed a way for Nancy to assert herself, to make an impression. “It became like a tool that she could use to make herself more important,” the friend says.
Perhaps taking a lover served the same purpose. Nancy sometimes bragged about her sex life with Rob, but during a spring 2003 stay at their Vermont house—she’d gone with their children to avoid the Asian sars threat—she met a good-looking, middle-aged Vermonter. He’d shown up at the house to repair her TV. Soon, he was boasting about the expensive jewelry Nancy had given him and about the tattoo he’d taken her to get, something Rob hadn’t wanted her to do.
Rob quickly became suspicious, and, with the help of a private detective, uncovered the affair. Still, he seemed willing to reconcile. He considered bringing Nancy’s lover to Hong Kong, even paying for the move as a way to work things out. “It would have killed him, though,” says a close friend. “He was into justice in a big way. Nancy would make things bend to suit her, but Rob was very straight down the line.” Rob and Nancy visited Australian friends in early 2003. “Rob was really depressed. He still loved her very much,” says one of those friends, “but the marriage was over. You could just tell.”
In Hong Kong, in the early evening of November 2, 2003, just after Rob finished supervising a playdate for his three children and a neighbor’s kids, his daughter delivered him a pink milk shake. It tasted like ground-up cookies and strawberry ice cream and something else. The drink contained Rohypnol and three other sedatives, medications recently prescribed for Nancy. As he lay drugged in bed, Rob was struck five times in the head with an eight-pound lead statue that had belonged to Nancy’s grandmother.
Six days later, Nancy was arrested. Police said she’d slept in the room with Rob’s body for two days before buying a new carpet, rolling Rob’s body inside the old one, and then directing workmen to put it in storage.
Quickly, the many relatives flew to Hong Kong. Andrew, who just a few weeks earlier had settled with the co-op board, was devastated by the news. Jane, who adored Robbie, as she called him, came from Washington State. Bill flew in from Florida. Nancy’s father, Ira Keeshin, arrived from Chicago, and Nancy’s half-brother, Brooks, came from Cincinnati.
For the extended family, it was an impossible reunion. Bill was beside himself. He believed that Nancy had murdered his son. But almost worse, her defense—she pleaded not guilty—was that Rob was a drug user who had abused her. When Ira supported his daughter, Bill turned on him.
“Bill treats me as the enemy,” says Ira. “He treats me as if I don’t exist.” And yet, whatever Bill thought of Ira, or Nancy, Ira and Bill had to cooperate on the matter of the three grandchildren. “It was horrible,” says Bill.
Perhaps Bill would have felt better if he’d had some legal authority. But his relationship with Rob hadn’t always been easy. They’d reconciled, and had in recent years spent happy time together, but there’d been periods when Rob refused to allow his father’s name to be mentioned.
For Rob, Nancy’s father no doubt had been a less complicated presence. Plus Ira is relaxed, blunt, eager to laugh. “Rob and I were father-son, very close,” says Ira, who’s in the bakery business. In his will, drawn up in 1998, Rob named Ira his children’s guardian—in part, perhaps, to please Nancy.
Eventually, Bill and Ira sat down in Hong Kong. In a handwritten agreement on Marriott-hotel stationery, they said that Ira would take temporary custody; future decisions would be made by mutual consent.
Rob and Nancy’s kids needed all the help they could get. And yet circumstance pitted one family against another. Inevitably, the struggle over the kids became a proxy fight, a warm-up for the drama that would unfold in a Hong Kong courtroom. As if bitterness and anger weren’t fuel enough, there was a further cause for suspicion. Rob’s kids were rich. Court papers said each was worth $5 million (before taxes). When it came to the kids, someone always seemed to believe that the other person’s true motive was greed.
Immediately after the murder, the three children, ages 3 to 9, moved in with Ira, an arrangement that quickly fell apart. Ira, 62 at the time, reported that “the tragedy,” as he called it, had made Joanie, his third wife, ill. In December 2003, he wrote Andrew that, instead, he had found them “a loving, nurturing, and stable environment.” Ira sent the kids to live with his son, Brooks, Nancy’s half-brother, a 24-year-old medical student at the University of Cincinnati. (He added that it was his hope that “this decision will in on”—Ira had mistyped the word no—“way be a source of conflict.”)
“A lot of 24-year-olds raise families,” says Ira. “Brooks had his mother there [in Cincinnati]. There was support. It wasn’t like he was in the wilderness.” The children’s nanny, who’d cared for them in Hong Kong, moved with them. “Brooks was huge,” says Ira. “He’s the true hero.”
To Bill, the arrangement seemed like lunacy. “It’s not normality. People don’t do things like this,” Bill says. And to him, the move seemed spiteful, an attempt at all costs to keep Rob’s children away from the Kissels.
Bill moved aggressively to, as he saw it, rescue his grandkids. “He was pretty malignant,” recalls Brooks, now a resident in pediatric psychiatry at the University of Utah. “He threatened that he would ruin me and everyone that was close to me, bankrupting my father, making sure I never practiced medicine. And he at least gave the appearance that he meant it.”
Jane wanted the kids, but she already had two of her own, one just a few months old. So Andrew sued for custody. For once, he emerged as the family’s lead actor, its good guy. Even his father praised him.
“Jane, it’s your ex-brother,” said Andrew. “You’ve managed to do what Dad has tried to do for 75 years: tear this family apart. You’ve done that. And we’re going to bury you.”
Ira sometimes felt descended upon by the Kissels—to him, they seemed to swarm. But he found Andrew the least objectionable. It helped that Andrew had once apologized for Bill. “My father,” Ira remembers Andrew saying, “I can’t explain—he’s been like this his whole life.”
Andrew and Ira rarely spoke face-to-face. “Andrew always said that he had a difficult time talking in person, and that’s why he liked to talk on the telephone or through a lawyer,” Ira says. For Ira, Andrew’s style worked. “Well, Andrew realized that I wasn’t the enemy,” says Ira, “and, I don’t know, we got along.”
Ira signed off, and at the end of 2003, Andrew boarded a private Marquis jet to Cincinnati to collect the kids. It cost $8,000, which he billed to Rob’s estate.
In Greenwich, Andrew took up life as a father of five, a patriarch coming to the aid of his younger, much-loved brother, and also as a rising businessman.
He’d already liquidated his New Jersey real estate for about $25 million. Even after deducting about $8 million in bank debt and $14 million owed investors, he still had probably $3 million of profit. Andrew, though, netted much more, since he failed to inform investors—including his brother and those East 74th Street neighbors—that he’d sold the properties. Instead, he continued to send them their share of the supposed income, along with rosy financials.
With the inflated proceeds, Andrew invested in Connecticut real estate, often shrewdly. He clearly had a knack. There was, for instance, a profitable multi-unit building, Woodbury Knoll, in Woodbury, Connecticut.
Andrew had other projects, perhaps none as important as keeping up with his Greenwich neighbors. He built a collection of sixteen luxury cars. To tool around town, he drove a Porsche Cayenne or a Mercedes wagon or a Ferrari (he had four Ferraris). If the family went to the club for dinner, they took two cars since Andrew insisted on arriving in a Ferrari. He bought a yacht, an 80-foot Lazzara he named Special K’s. Plus he was building, as he put it, a dream house, a 10,000-square-foot Adirondack-style mansion nearby.
After Rob’s death, Andrew’s spending accelerated; it appeared almost limitless. “One of his children was interested in riding, so he bought into Epona Stables. He was so enthusiastic,” recalls one Greenwich associate. Andrew invested in several Greenwich businesses—a liquor store, an import-export business. He put $50,000 into the Beach House Cafe. Andrew’s free-spending ways made him seem magnanimous, a big shot, and in case anyone missed the point, he hired a PR agent. “He was what we call a pleaser,” says one person who dealt with him professionally. “He wanted everybody to like him and worked hard at making them,” says one Greenwich business associate.
Andrew was still in the business of owning apartment buildings, but soon he moved into a more glamorous end of real estate. Andrew and his partner David Parisier, his former East 74th Street neighbor, became developers. Why Parisier continued to work with Andrew after the co-op fiasco wasn’t clear. Maybe, as one person who worked with both suggested, “David was looking at dollar signs and thinking Andrew was a ticket for him.” They purchased land and started construction. “They didn’t have the slightest idea how to build a house,” says a builder who worked with them. To him, it seemed like Andrew and Parisier spent most of their energy going at one another. “It was the most dysfunctional group I was ever with,” he says. “I don’t think they trusted each other. I don’t think Andrew trusted anyone.”
Whatever inefficiencies Hanrock experienced, a rising real-estate market bailed them out. Their first house, on 18 Burning Tree Road, brought almost $1 million in profit.
Still, Andrew’s expenses outpaced his income. To Bill, viewing it from afar, Andrew’s excessive spending was egged on by Hayley. “Andrew had had to keep up with his expectations of himself and his wife,” says Bill. At one point, Bill, often cutting in anger, called Hayley “a moneygrubbing bitch,” as one person close to Hayley recalled.
Perhaps Hayley was another of those people Andrew needed to impress. Hayley, though, told people she didn’t particularly like Andrew’s “shopping addiction,” as she called it. It was one of the things they fought about. Her main focus, she insisted, was the five kids. And she didn’t feel she deserved any grief from the Kissels. “I’ve done nothing but stand up for your family, defend your family, take care of your family,” she’d later tell Jane. She’d welcomed Rob’s children when no one else would, she said.
Rob’s estate covered the kids’ expenses, $8,000 per month, not including schools, camps, and therapists. But money wasn’t the only challenge. Andrew wasn’t much help. He’d intervened as savior, but Hayley attended the five parent-teacher conferences and the five school plays and, of course, took them to Stratton.
“It’s brutal work taking care of five kids,” Hayley told a friend. “I get impatient, stressed, frenzied, and am prone to the occasional rant.” By most accounts, she did a fine job; even Bill said so at one point. And at the end of each day, she was proud that everyone sat down to a fun family dinner. At one point, Andrew even bought a larger, $6,000 dining-room table to accommodate the new arrivals—it showed up (Andrew charged 30 percent of the cost) as part of a $171,000 bill to Rob’s estate.
For Hayley, life with five kids was manageable, but coexistence with Andrew proved impossible. By the middle of 2004, their rocky fourteen-year marriage was coming apart. Hayley’s confidante in these matters was her old friend and ski student, Jane. They’d long been close: Jane sometimes told Hayley that she loved her like the sister she never had.
In the summer of 2004, Hayley started phoning Jane to vent. Jane, apparently alarmed at the tenor of the conversations, took notes, copies of which were obtained by New York Magazine. The notes begin dramatically on July 2, 2004: “Hayley said she is leaving Andrew.” The next day, Hayley told Jane that Andrew was having an affair. “It is the last straw,” say Jane’s notes. “He has embarrassed her enough.” On June 16, 2004, at 7:15 in the morning, Hayley added in an e-mail, “I am busting my ass taking care of five kids … while he is off having dinner [with her] at nice restaurants and calling her all day.”
Soon Hayley confided suspicions about Andrew’s business. “She thinks his business is a Ponzi scheme,” say the notes. She thought he sold a building and didn’t tell anyone. “She does not want to have to explain to her kids why Dad is in jail.”
Maybe Hayley should have suspected something long before. She’s financially sophisticated. “How could a wife not know?” Bill later wondered. By Hayley’s account, if she ever asked, Andrew would lash out. She told a friend what Andrew said: “It’s none of your fucking business. I don’t tell you how to analyze stocks. Don’t tell me how to run my business.” Hayley told a friend she was afraid of him. “He won every fight” was how she put it.
Recently alcohol had become Andrew’s drug of choice. No doubt, it affected his moods. The catalyst to one ugly mood, Hayley e-mailed Jane, was that a friend had canceled golf with Andrew. “This was a result of [the friend] being on his boat drinking with the guys every night that his wife was in Canyon Ranch with the girls.” Apparently, Andrew was in a horrible funk because of that. “It was worsened because I was invited on the boat for girls’ night to watch a Diana Ross concert in Greenwich (across the harbor).”
Jane, like the rest of the family, had been unaware of Andrew’s financial misdeeds. Now Hayley told Jane, “I can’t take it anymore. It amazes me I let him treat me like that. I am a smart person.
I can’t believe I have stayed in this relationship this long.”
Jane might have begun as Hayley’s friend. She grew increasingly frightened for Rob’s kids. Especially when, according to the notes, she heard Hayley say this: “I hate to say it, but every time I see Rob’s kids I see Andrew, and I hate to take it out on them, but I can’t help it.”
Early in 2005, Hayley talked of moving Rob’s kids to Jane’s place in Washington. In February 2005, Hayley finally filed for divorce, and by March, it seemed to be agreed that Rob’s kids would go to Jane at the end of the school year.
At the end of March, though, Andrew called Jane. The kids, he told her, were staying with him, say Jane’s notes. He seemed resentful and furious. Andrew insisted that he intended to work through his difficulties with Hayley. Then he raged at his sister, as if in his time of need she’d decided to compete for the affection of the children. “I can’t believe you are doing this to me,” said Andrew, according to Jane’s notes. “I can’t believe you are hitting me from the flanks. I will fight you on this.”
Increasingly, Andrew was fighting on all fronts. More and more, it seemed that the legitimate side of Andrew’s businesses served only as a cover for illegal transactions. “He’d sit in his office and drink,” says one person who knew him in Greenwich. “And he’d do these crimes.”
A former employee of Hanrock, Juanita Johnson, had been a notary public. When she left, Andrew got hold of her stamp. Andrew’s scheme was brazen and simple. He typed up a form stating the mortgage on a particular property had been repaid—sometimes they were properties he didn’t legally control. He notarized the form with Johnson’s stamp and had it filed with the clerk’s office. Then he’d take out another mortgage on the same property. He took out three mortgages in one year on one parcel. He did the same on the Vermont house, though first, since it was in Hayley’s name, he forged documents, transferring it to himself. As long as he kept up with payments on each of the loans, no one was the wiser. And as one associate says, “He diligently serviced the debt.”
Andrew may have believed that he and Hayley would reconcile, but as summer approached, that prospect grew remote. In fact, one night in May, Hayley lay in bed and fantasized about killing Andrew. As usual, she confided in Jane. “God I HATE YOUR BROTHER!” she wrote in a May 22, 2005, e-mail.
“You okay?” responded Jane.
The next morning, Hayley said she was, though the rest of her e-mail suggested otherwise. “I could actually see myself pummeling him to death and just enjoying the sensation,” she wrote. To Hayley, these were the normal thoughts of a person in the midst of a poisonous divorce. Still, it was a haunting image, especially since Andrew’s brother had been pummeled to death by his wife. The next morning, Hayley pulled out of the garage, heading to spin class, and thought about crashing into his beloved Ferraris.
A few weeks later, one of Andrew’s many real-estate lawyers happened to read through the chain of title. He noticed something unusual. Why, he wondered, did several out-of-state banks use the same Stamford, Connecticut, notary, Juanita Johnson? Parisier was also getting suspicious. Refinance guys called him to talk about loans he knew nothing about. When Parisier confronted Andrew, he blew up. “How dare you! Don’t come back to the office. I’ll kill you!” said Andrew, according to a person close to Parisier. Parisier returned, but with bodyguards.
Soon, Andrew hired a criminal-defense lawyer. “You’re in a lot of trouble,” Greenwich attorney Philip Russell told Andrew.
“I know,” he said. Russell talked to the FBI, which launched its own investigation. All told, Andrew’s frauds amounted to $25 million in three states, the FBI charged.
In May 2005, as Hayley mused about the joys of killing Andrew, Nancy Kissel’s murder trial got under way. In Hong Kong, it was the splashiest scandal in years. The press labeled it the “milk-shake murder” and covered it like the O.J. case. Nancy maintained her innocence, though midway through her testimony, she shocked the court by admitting that she’d killed Rob. She said it was during a fight and that Rob was an abusive drug user. These were accusations that none of Rob’s friends, and only a few of Nancy’s, believed. For Bill, it was slander. Attending the trial all day, then reading blogs about the trial at night, Bill was distraught. He lashed out at anyone who attacked his son. (To one of Nancy’s friends who defended her on a Website, Bill e-mailed pointedly, “Keep it up and you can become the victim. You are not immune.”)
And still, there were Rob and Nancy’s kids. With Andrew’s household falling apart, the extended family had to collaborate on another decision.
By July, according to Jane’s notes, Hayley had reneged on what Jane thought was an agreement to transfer the kids to Jane. Hayley told Jane, say the notes, “I am going to do what is best for myself.” Hayley suggested that Andrew had left her financially strapped. “If I have to keep the kids it may not be the best thing for them, but at the least I will not be on the street,” say the notes. It was a strange threat. Hayley came from money; she’d always been a good earner.
Perhaps it was a way to taunt Jane. Hayley felt underappreciated. She was furious at Andrew and Bill, and now, it seemed, at Jane as well. All her sacrifices, her devoted mothering, and now she was being cast as part of the problem. Suddenly she declared, “I am not going to let the Kissels take anything more from me. I have given enough.” She promised to fight to keep the kids.
And yet Hayley wasn’t always as hard-hearted as she seemed in her angriest moments. She even softened toward her soon-to-be-ex-husband. At the end of July, Andrew was arrested at their Vermont vacation home, charged with fraud in three states. (The Manhattan district attorney, alerted to the fraud at East 74th Street, would soon indict him as well.) Whatever Hayley thought of Andrew, she drove to Vermont for his bail hearing. “She had his jail keys in her hand,” says Russell, Andrew’s lawyer. “All she had to do was say he couldn’t live at home.” Yes, he deserved what he was getting, Hayley believed. And, yes, he was a bully, and she was divorcing him. “Andrew had nobody else,” Hayley told a friend. And there were the kids. “Letting him have access to his children was all he was going to have for a long time and all they were going to have for a long time.” She agreed to let Andrew return to Greenwich. Hayley was headed back to work. Andrew could help babysit.
Even after he discovered (with the help of a private detective) that Nancy was having an affair with a TV repairman, Rob seemed willing to reconcile. He even considered bringing her lover to Hong Kong.
For Andrew, his arrest was crushing; unlike his previous brush with fraud, there was nowhere to run. He was confined to the house by an electronic ankle monitor. Bill heard of Andrew’s arrest at Rob’s murder trial. He didn’t seem entirely surprised. “They were two different souls, Robert and Andrew,” he says.
Whatever the state of Andrew’s soul, at that point, the rest of him was, as his lawyer put it, “in extremis. It was mental, physical, financial. He really needed help.” He needed to get into a rehab program, and he needed funds. Turning to Bill was out of the question. “I don’t have anything to do with my father,” Andrew told his lawyer, “and I don’t want to.”
Andrew appealed to Jane, his once-devoted sister. But Jane’s priorities had shifted. She now believed the situation with Rob’s children required emergency action. What must Andrew’s household be like! Hayley was running off to court to seize Andrew’s assets. Andrew, in turn, was demanding that Hayley pay him alimony. Then were they sitting down to a family dinner? And still Andrew and Hayley wouldn’t give up Rob’s kids. Jane felt she had to do something. “She was their guardian angel,” her lawyer Randy Mastro says. Jane’s funds were allocated elsewhere, was the message Andrew received.
In September, Jane moved aggressively in a New York court and also publicly. She spoke to a New York Times reporter, quoting from a couple of her conversations with Hayley.
Andrew was furious. Somehow, appearances still mattered to him. Unusually, he seemed protective of Hayley. Andrew called his sister the day after the Times story. “Jane, it’s your ex-brother,” said Andrew, according to a transcript of a phone message obtained by New York Magazine. “You’ve managed to do what Dad has tried to do for 75 years: tear this family apart. You’ve done that. And we’re going to bury you, Jane.”
Apparently, Andrew and Hayley were united on this point. Hayley left Jane a message the same day: “The betrayal I have gotten from you is of a magnitude that I never thought possible. But obviously I underestimated you.”
To Hayley, Bill and Jane seemed like “evil twins”—a phrase that Andrew used. She left a blistering message on Bill’s voice mail, according to a transcript of the call. “You’re an evil man, and I would say that you’ll get what you deserve,” said Hayley as if putting a curse on Bill. Then she realized there was no need. “Well, you already got what you deserve,” she said.
At the custody hearings, everyone was lawyered up—Jane, Ira, Hayley. The estate had a lawyer, the kids had a lawyer. The judge even assigned counsel to represent Nancy, despite the fact that on September 1, she’d been convicted of Rob’s murder. From prison, Nancy handwrote a five-page plea. The battle against the Kissels, carried on via the children, seemed to count for everything. Nancy had never liked Hayley, but now she wrote, “I have been overwhelmed by Hayley’s unconditional love, support and her exceptional skills as a devoted mother.” Jane, she suggested, was after the money from the estate.
It was an ugly and useless public airing, as Michael Collesano, the clearheaded lawyer for the children, says. From the start, it was a foregone conclusion that the kids would go to Jane, says Collesano. Ira opposed it. He was sure that Hayley had been a terrific mother, and he wasn’t sure of Jane. “Just because Andrew’s going to jail, why are you presupposing that they’re in a negative environment?” he asked. “Even when Andrew was on a bracelet, he was interacting with the kids. It wasn’t like it was a household in turmoil.”
The judge wasn’t swayed, especially since Hayley wasn’t fighting for the children: “Whatever’s best” had become her attitude. Soon, the kids headed west to Washington. Jane had turned her life upside down to accommodate Rob’s children. That included spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, which she hoped Rob’s estate would cover. That decision, though, depended on the consent of Ira, co-executor of Rob’s will.
By the end of March 2006, Andrew knew that the following week, he would plead guilty to all charges. He faced a minimum of eight years in prison. Creditors were piling on. After Hayley filed for divorce, Parisier, the banks, the title companies all came after Andrew. His car collection was liquidated. Even his watches were sold. His Greenwich life, the one of quick trips to Canyon Ranch and getting loaded on the boat, was gone forever. The only time Andrew left home was to drive the kids to school, and he’d had to petition the court for permission to do that. “I’m ruined,” he told a visitor.
Months earlier, Andrew had stopped paying rent, and Hayley had to go to court to settle the matter. She agreed to vacate the premises by the end of the month.
Movers showed up Saturday, April 1. Hayley had left the day before, and planned to put their possessions in storage. When the movers arrived, Andrew was still there. Hayley came, and there was an argument. Andrew didn’t have anywhere to go. Hayley had one more bit of patience. She agreed to leave a bedroom set until Monday.
On Sunday evening, April 2, Carlos Trujillo, Andrew’s driver and all-around helper, his last remaining employee, showed up at the house at about 6 p.m. The next morning, when the movers returned, Andrew’s body was discovered in the basement. He was bound and stabbed in the back, his T-shirt pulled over his head.
Andrew’s funeral was a small one near his hometown in New Jersey. He was buried with Rob. Just over a dozen people were there, including Jane and Bill, their friends and supporters. None of Andrew’s friends showed up. Hayley, at the request of the Kissels, agreed to stay away, the family feud lasting into the grave.
The Greenwich Police Department initially reported that Hayley was fully cooperating with its investigation; later, the chief said that she had stopped. The investigation, though, seemed to focus on Trujillo, a Colombian immigrant who claimed, as his lawyer put it, that Andrew was like a father to him. (Andrew was notoriously generous with employees.) The police noted that there’d been no sign of forced entry and thus suggested that Andrew knew his killer. One theory at work was that Andrew, in a final act of selflessness, had committed suicide by murder. Perhaps with Trujillo’s help.
Certainly, Andrew had been distraught. Hayley had even called Bill, left a message that last weekend. Bill had been trying to call for a week, but no one picked up. Andrew’s intent, according to the suicide-by-murder theory, was to die without killing himself. If he was murdered, then his children could inherit his insurance policy, which presumably was void if he committed suicide.
If true, it was an extraordinary act of generosity. Maybe it was a last attempt at making amends or pleasing his family. Bill, for one, doesn’t buy the suicide theory. “That’s preposterous,” he says. To him, stabbing someone in the back means one thing. “It had to be someone who was incredibly angry,” he says. Bill thought of Hayley and her side of the family. “You can’t rule it out,” he says.
Of course, many people had reason to be angry with Andrew. “He was a bad boy,” says Bill, and maybe, Bill thinks, a sick boy. Bill’s tone seems at times forgiving, at times defensive. It is a defense of Rob, who’d been so good, especially, perhaps, in retrospect, and who’d lately been tarred with the same brush as Andrew. Bill’s two sons both had wives who hated them, and both were murdered before they were 50. “You must not compare the two.” Bill bristles. “You will be doing Robert’s children a tremendous disservice.” Bill isn’t in touch with Andrew’s children.
To Bill, Andrew’s death seemed a kind of incrementalism. They’d been out of touch for so long. Occasionally, he forgot that Andrew was dead. It was for a split second but perhaps long enough for him to imagine that their troubled relationship was retrievable. “He was my son,” Bill says of Andrew. Not that he could quite forgive him his flaws. “Andrew wanted to be a winner,” he says. It sounds like an epitaph, an unhappy one.
Sometimes these days, all the trouble seems too much for Bill. And, of course, there’s more to come, perhaps even another murder trial for Bill to attend. It can lead Bill to awful thoughts. “Suppose, just suppose, I were to say I’ve had enough and end it all?” he occasionally thinks. He breaks down. He cries. But then, no. Bill is more of a fighter than that. Plus he knows it’s not the right thing to do. Not for himself. And not for the grandchildren. “What kind of heritage would that leave for these children?” he says. “The children have to survive.”
The House of Kissel
At one time, they were a happy family.
Grieves for two dead sons. Told Nancy’s half-brother he would ruin his life if he didn’t give up Robert’s kids. Suspects Hayley’s family of murdering Andrew—from whom he was estranged.
THE (DEAD) SONS
Built a successful life for his wife and three children in Hong Kong. Found out his wife was cheating on him. Was bludgeoned to death, wrapped in a carpet, and dumped in a storage area.
Stole millions from his Manhattan co-op. Moved to Greenwich and stole $25 million from banks. Was stabbed to death before he could serve his jail time. Or was it a staged suicide
Had an affair with a TV repairman. Drugged her husband, Robert, with a strawberry milk shake before killing him. Slept in thebedroom with his body for two days.
Along with husband Andrew (Robert’s brother), took in Robert’s children. Suspected Andrew of infidelity and criminal dealings. Told his sister, Jane, she’d fantasized about killing him.
Took Robert’s kids after Hayley filed for divorce. Sympathized with Hayley’s frustrated e-mails about Andrew. Trashed Hayley to the New York Times.
Brooks and Ira
After his daughter, Nancy, killed her husband, Ira wrestled with the Kissels over the kids. Brooks, Nancy’s half-brother, a 24-year-old medical student at the time of Robert’s murder, had custody for a few weeks.
The House of Kissel
How the once-happy family is all connected.
Additional reporting by Matt Stevenson and Matthew Philips.