Ex-driver acquitted in Conn. developer's killing

A former chauffeur was acquitted Thursday of murder in the killing of his boss, a millionaire real estate developer who was found stabbed at his rented Connecticut mansion just days before he was scheduled to plead guilty in a fraud case.

Carlos Trujillo, 49, of Bridgeport, was found not guilty Thursday of murder in the April 2006 killing of Andrew Kissel, the Greenwich Time reported.

The Stamford Superior Court jury could not reach a verdict on a separate attempted murder charge, and a mistrial was declared on that count. It was not immediately clear if prosecutors planned to retry Trujillo on that charge.

They have alleged Trujillo hired his cousin to kill Kissel for money.

The cousin, 24-year-old Leonard Trujillo of Worcester, Mass., awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to murder conspiracy and manslaughter.

Kissel was a partner in the Stamford real estate investment company Hanrock Group LLC. The FBI arrested him in July 2005 on a bank fraud charge, saying he stole $34 million in mortgage money from banks and $7 million in real estate proceeds from 30 private investors.

He signed a plea deal in March 2006 and was to plead guilty to bank and mail fraud on April 8, 2006, five days after he was found stabbed and bound in his home.

In the six months before he was killed, Kissel began an effort with Carlos Trujillo and two other of his employees to liquidate his assets and hide them from federal authorities, Greenwich police said in arrest warrant affidavits. Kissel gave the workers about $357,000 in cash and valuables, but the employees never returned any of the assets to Kissel, police said.

State prosecutor Paul Ferencek told the jury during closing arguments Monday that money was at the heart of the murder-for-hire, the Time reported.

"In this case there seems to be a very good motive, and that is the motive of greed," Ferencek told jurors.

Ferencek said the state was not alleging that Carlos Trujillo was the person who stabbed Kissel, and it's still not clear who the actual killer was, the newspaper reported.

Leonard Trujillo admitted that he helped plan Kissel's killing with the goal of stealing $10,000 from his cousin, but insisted he didn't follow through on those plans and wasn't involved with the murder.

Carlos Trujillo's lawyer, Lindy Urso, said his client was innocent and there was no evidence linking him to the killing. He questioned the credibility of Leonard Trujillo's testimony, alleging there was a feud within the Trujillo family and Leonard Trujillo's father in Colombia told his son to implicate Carlos Trujillo.

The murder case was another tragedy for the Kissel family. Kissel's brother, Robert, was a wealthy banker who was poisoned and beaten to death in Hong Kong in 2003 in a case known as the "milkshake murder."

Robert Kissel's wife, Nancy, was convicted by a jury of sedating him with a laced milkshake and bludgeoning him to death, but Hong Kong's highest court overturned her conviction earlier this year, saying prosecutors improperly cross-examined Nancy Kissel. She said she killed her husband in self-defense.