Death On The Hudson River: Woman Allegedly Pulled Fiancé's Paddle Away As He Drowned
Angelika Graswald was indicted Tuesday on murder and manslaughter charges a month after her fiancé's body was found floating in the Hudson River. Prosecutors said Graswald pulled the kayak's plug and tampered with the paddle, letting Vincent Viafore drown.
Angelika Graswald was indicted on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter Tuesday in the death of her fiancé, Vincent Viafore, who drowned in a kayaking incident on the Hudson River last month.
The indictment alleges that Graswald, 35, intentionally killed Viafore, 46, by removing a plug from his kayak so that it would fill with water and tampering with his paddle.
It also alleges that Graswald moved the paddle away from Viafore as he struggled to stay afloat in the frigid 40-degree water. Graswald did not assist him or call for help, prosecutors said Tuesday.
The Orange County grand jury indicted Graswald on one count of second-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years to life, and on one count of second-degree manslaughter, which carries a maximum of 15 years in state prison.
Police initially believed Graswald "to be a survivor of a tragic accident."
At around 7:40 p.m. on April 19, police responded to a 911 call from Graswald saying that Viafore's kayak had capsized on the Hudson River. She also told authorities that Viafore, who was not wearing a life jacket, had disappeared in the water.
Graswald was rescued from the water in a life vest and treated for hypothermia. Both kayaks were also recovered; however, police were unable to immediately locate Viafore's body.
The day after Viafore went missing, and in the week that followed, Graswald posted several photos of the couple in intimate moments while friends and family responded with thoughts and prayers for her missing fiancé.
Graswald, who goes by the last name of Lipska on her Facebook page, used heart, sun, and rainbow emojis on her photos with Viafore and in response to well-wishers.
She also posted Viafore's photos with captions that included "Good morning" and "I love you."
On April 21, two days after her fiancé disappeared, she posted a photo of Viafore wishing him "Happy 1.7 year annyversary, baby!"
On April 23, Graswald posted a photo of herself kayaking with the caption, "If only I could have paddled harder, dammit..."
"He kept, like, watching me, and I kept watching him," Graswald said in an interview to News 12 Westchester on April 23.
Recalling Viafore's final moments before his death, Graswald said, "I saw him struggling a little bit. He was trying to figure out how to paddle the waves. And then I just saw him flip, right in front of me."
She said she called out to him to hold on.
"He kept, like, watching me, and I kept watching him," she said. "He said, 'I don't think I'm going to make it.' I was like, 'Pff, what are you talking about, you're going to make it, of course.'"
While authorities continued to search for Viafore's body, Graswald also posted photos and videos of her visit to an animal sanctuary and doing cartwheels. She shared jokes and motivational yoga quotes on her Facebook page.
On April 29, 10 days after Viafore's disappearance, Graswald posted a Facebook video of herself driving to a yacht club. A voice, presumably Graswald's, can be heard saying, "What a beautiful day."
On April 29, police arrested Graswald and charged her with second-degree murder while she laid flowers for Viafore on Bannerman Island, where the couple had gone kayaking before his death.
Police said that Graswald had implicated herself by making conflicting statements about Viafore's death.
Assistant District Attorney Julie Mohl said that by her own admission, Graswald had tampered with Viafore's kayak, which filled with water and capsized, CBS News reported.
Viafore held on to the boat for five to 10 minutes, but Graswald only called 911 20 minutes after his kayak overturned, Mohl said at a bail hearing on April 30. She also said that witnesses claimed Graswald intentionally capsized her own kayak.
"She made statements that implicated herself in this crime, enough to certainly have reasonable cause to have made the arrest," Maj. Patrick Regan, a state police commander, said at a news conference after her arrest.
According to prosecutors, Graswald told investigators: "It felt good knowing he was going to die."
Mohl said that Graswald admitted to tampering with the kayak. She also said that Graswald knew she would stand to benefit from $250,000 in Viafore's life insurance policies. Graswald "talked about what she could do with the money" after his death, Mohl said.
Graswald's lawyer, Richard A. Portale, attributed prosecutors' claims of his client's alleged confession to a language barrier, the New York Times reported.
He added that Graswald, a native Latvian, struggled with English and wasn't able to communicate effectively.
Hours after her arrest, Graswald told News 12 Westchester that she had been wrongly accused. She said that the police found her diary where she had written that she wished Viafore were dead when he pushed her to have rough sex and wanted to have a threesome. She said she wrote the entries in moments of anger and did not mean it.
On May 23, Viafore's body was recovered from the Hudson River more than a month after his disappearance.
The Orange County Medical Examiner's Office is examining his body.
Viafore, a construction manager, grew up in Dutchess County and was known to be an athlete with a passion for water sports.
And like Graswald, Viafore had two marriages behind him. The couple met at a pub in Poughkeepsie in September 2013, after which Graswald soon left her job as a bartender and moved into his apartment.
His Facebook page also featured several photos of the couple captured in romantic poses. In one of the photos posted on Jan. 26, Viafore wrote, "The wedding's going to be in Europe on the Baltic Sea, but we plan to do a Hudson River Cruise Party with whatever friends want to party with us!"
Viafore, who was financially supporting Graswald, declared bankruptcy in 2010, the Times reported.
Graswald came to the U.S. from Latvia as a 20-year-old au pair for a Connecticut family, the New York Times reported.
She kept her married name after divorcing her second husband in 2009. A former boyfriend, Mike Colvin, told CBS News, "The bubbly, bouncy little ballerina girl had a dark side."
He said Graswald was known to act impulsively and make snap decisions when angry. She had been through two marriages and a series of jobs at restaurants and other businesses. She was a volunteer at the gardens in Bannerman Castle for the past three years.
Colvin, a radio DJ in Poughkeepsie, told the New York Times that Graswald moved into his home with several items belonging to her ex-husband, including a TV set and paper towels.
He said that at one point during a fight over custody of their cat in 2010, Graswald lay down behind his car to stop him from leaving.
Graswald is currently being held in the Orange County Jail in lieu of $3 million bail.