Prosecutor: Fiancee pushed paddle away from doomed kayaker
May. 26, 2015
GOSHEN, N.Y. (AP) — A New York woman charged with killing her fiance pushed a floating paddle away from him as he struggled in the cold, choppy Hudson River after his kayak capsized, then waited 20 minutes to call for help, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Three weeks after Vincent Viafore vanished during a kayak outing with Angelika Graswald 50 miles north of New York City, his body was found by a fisherman Saturday near the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, authorities said.
Graswald said she was unable to save Viafore, 46, when he capsized without a life jacket during their trip to scenic Bannerman Island. Graswald herself was rescued from the water by another boater and treated for hypothermia.
But the story soon took a startling turn. Less than two weeks later, Graswald, 35, was charged with murder. Prosecutors said she wanted out of their relationship — and to get her hands on $250,000 in life insurance.
"She felt trapped, and it was her only way out," Orange County Assistant District Attorney Julie Mohl said at a court hearing this month.
Graswald admitted tampering with Viafore's kayak and later confessed "it felt good knowing he would die," Mohl said. The fiancee didn't call 911 for 20 minutes after his kayak overturned, and witnesses said she intentionally capsized her own craft, Mohl said.
On Tuesday, the district attorney's office released an indictment charging Graswald with second-degree manslaughter as well as second-degree murder. It said in a statement that in addition to removing the drain plug from Viafore's kayak, she moved his paddle away from him as he struggled in the water.
"Says who?" Graswald's lawyer, Richard Portale, said Tuesday. "This is some new contortion and mischaracterization of some oral statement she's made. It's not impressive."
Portale said Viafore's death was nothing more than a tragic accident. "I don't think it's fair to see it any other way."
Prosecutors did not say where they received their information about Graswald pushing the paddle away from Viafore.
Graswald and Viafore appeared to be a happy couple. Images posted online show an active, affectionate pair spending time outdoors, particularly on the water, and a message about their plans to be married at a spot on the Baltic Sea.
Graswald has worked at a string of restaurants and other businesses and has been married twice.
She is being held on $3 million bail.