Thursday, September 01, 2005

 
Guilty
Well, I doubled my money in the Nancy Kissel jury pool. She's guilty, guilty, guilty of murder and will be serving a life sentence although appeals are expected. The verdict came in at about 8:40pm tonight and the jury had convened at 12:30pm. Not a bad day's work, as one editor quipped, and they got two free meals.
What follows is an interview I did for The Standard with Robert Kissel's high school girl friend/prom date. She and other women who knew him painted quite a different picture of him than his killer.


As the dead can't speak for themselves, it's left for those who knew and loved Robert Kissel to speak on his behalf.
In court testimony his widow and confessed killer portrayed the millionaire investment banker as an angry, abusive cocaine- and scotch-fueled sodomite -- possibly with a penchant for gay sex.
At one point Nancy Kissel testified that she told her psychiatrist that Robert had been expelled from high school for dealing drugs.
That's not the Robert Kissel Carol Japngie-Horton or her family knew at Pascack Hills High School in Montvale, New Jersey in 1978.
They dated for two years (``a seriously long time in high school''), she said from her Phoenix, Arizona home and even after their break-up he made good on an earlier promise and took her to her senior prom. They remained in touch off-and-on throughout the years, although she didn't learn of his death until two years after the fact. ``Rob was never suspended or expelled from high school. He was a straight A student, and he certainly never dealt drugs,'' Horton said.
``He left public school to go to a private all-boys prep school. Rob was really sweet and quiet. He was totally approachable to anyone, very laid back, mellow, and handsome.
``He was the most sought after boy in school, all the girls had a crush on him,'' she said. ``We became friends first. I think I was trying to hook him up with another girl. But he invited me to go with his family on a ski trip and we ended up getting together then.''
Horton said it was the first of many ski weekends she spent with his family and the two were virtually inseparable, spending time at each other's homes for those two years.
She was particularly struck by two things _ how well he related to women, particularly his mother and younger sister Jane, and how he was the only boyfriend she'd had who'd been able to make her father, a rather stern Ingersol-Rand executive, smile.
``He treated his sister Jane and his mother Elaine with the upmost respect and love. He was always patient with Jane, who, at the time, was a little girl that most big brothers in most families would not want to have much to do with.
``I remember watching Rob and Jane perform ballet together on skis. God they were beautiful to watch. He was so graceful and had to ability to master anything he wanted. He didn't really have to put his mind to it. Everything came naturally to him.
`` My dad was a very strict business man who never really smiled. He didn't like any boy I brought to home to introduce. Rob was the only boy that he would crack a smile for. It was amazing to watch.''
Horton's mother, Marjorie Japngie, added that. as far as her husband was concerned, no boy her daughter brought home after the break-up could measure up to Rob Kissel.
``Much to Carol's chagrin, whenever she brought home a new suitor her father would always compare him to Rob and they all fell short one way or another,'' Japngie wrote in an e-mail. She described him as a ``quiet, serious young man with impeccable manners and a sweet smile that would melt any mother's heart.
``The news of his death brings bitter tears. But the memory of the kind, gentle, and loving young man that enhanced all our lives remains.''
Horton, a graphic designer who grew up in an expat family, said though her contact with Kissel was sporadic after college, Nancy Kissel's portrait of her husband as an out of control man who reportedly broke his daughter's arm was alien.
``I lost touch with Rob for years after school, I was traveling all over the place. I found him again through a friend years later, before he went to Hong Kong. We talked over the phone, he told me he got married and had a little girl. He told me about his mother's death and that he named his daughter after her. It was a sweet conversation but I never spoke to him again after that.''
In fact it wasn't until two years after his November 2, 2003 death and at the start of Nancy Kissel's trial that she learned of her old flame's fate via e-mail.
``A friend e-mailed me to let me know. When I read the news I burst into tears and couldn't finish reading the rest of the e-mail. My 6-year-old son got scared and started crying as well because he didn't know what was going on with me and I couldn't stop clutching myself, rocking back and forth, and crying. It was bizarre.
``I have lost a lot of friends in my 42 years. But this news about Rob unexpectedly blew all my circuits. I can't stop thinking about him. I still cry. I'm obsessed with the case. It's weird and my husband is not liking it very much to say the least. But he's being really patient because I can't put it down.''
It was also the Internet and a Hong Kong blog site that has brought some closure and put her back in touch with others who loved and honored Robert Kissel. The site, Simon World (http://simonworld.mu.nu), featured daily updates on the trial and a comments section in which Horton and others who knew Rob posted their memories and later exchanged e-mails.
One was from a college girlfriend of Kissel's, a physician named Jill Endres, who wrote: ``I am a better person for having known Rob. Simon's website has connected me with another who is one of the few people in Rob's life who knew him as I did. Talking with Carol, who has exactly the same feelings as I do about who Robert Kissel was, has helped me realize several things.
``I wasn't able to do anything to help him avoid such a violent death. I couldn't help to put away the monster who has robbed us all. But lastly, I can help his father, brother, sister and children let the world know who this man was and what a difference he made in the lives of others.''
While Endres called Nancy Kissel ``a monster,'' Horton blasted her as a ``pathological liar,'' partly based on her own experience as a child living in Tokyo.
``The maids live on top of you. They know everything there is to know about the family they are working for,'' she said. ``And you can bet that they talk amongst themselves. That's one of the main reasons why I don't believe what Nancy said about the abuse. Believe me, if she were being beaten up every maid and nanny in the complex would have known about it.''
And while she said she hopes Nancy Kissel ``gets sent to the worst prison in the worst area of China'' she said she believes he would have forgiven his slayer.
``Although I am not able to see Nancy with compassion, I know Rob was an amazingly compassionate man. If he were able to speak today, even for just a second, he would probably ask all of you to be compassionate towards his wife and understand that she acted in utter sickness.''
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