District Attorney Hoovler Announces Indictment in Kayak Case

June 6, 2015 Updated: June 23, 2015
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District Attorney David M. Hoovler announced that an Orange County Grand Jury has indicted Angelika Graswald, 35, of Poughkeepsie, for the charges of murder in the second degree and manslaughter in the second degree in connection with the death of her fiancé, Vincent Viafore. The indictment was filed with the county court on May 26, 2015.

On April 19, 2015, the Orange County 911 Center received a call that Viafore’s kayak had capsized during a kayaking trip on the Hudson River. The New York State Police and other first responders searched the river for Viafore, eventually recovering his kayak, and that of Graswald, who had been taken aboard a private vessel.

On April 30, 2015, the New York State Police charged Graswald with murder for intentionally killing Viafore. Graswald is currently being held in the Orange County Jail. Orange County Court Judge Robert H. Freehill has set Graswald’s bail at $3,000,000 cash or $9,000,000 bond.

On Saturday May 23, 2015, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit was notified about a body floating in the Hudson River in the vicinity of West Point. They located and secured the body until the New York State Police could respond and recover the body from the river.

The body was positively identified as that of Mr. Viafore. Additional testing and examinations of Mr. Viafore’s body are being conducted by the Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The indictment alleges that Graswald killed her fiancé by removing a plug from his kayak so that it would fill with water and tampering with his paddle. It is also alleged that she moved the paddle away from him as he was struggling to stay afloat with water temperatures in the 40 degree range, and failed to render him assistance including timely calls for help.

“Although the grand jury has voted to indict the defendant on these charges the investigation is continuing and my office is working closely with the New York State Police,” said District Attorney Hoovler.

The prosecution of the case is being handled by Assistant District Attorney Julie Mohl and Senior Assistant District Attorney David Byrne.

Unfortunate Accident

Attorneys for Graswald say she is a victim of an accident that occurred on the chilly water after they had a couple of drinks.

Angelika Graswald pleaded not guilty on May 29 to murder and manslaughter charges in Orange County Court through her lawyer. Defense attorney Richard Portale said after the arraignment that he expects pending autopsy results on Vincent Viafore to indicate accidental drowning, hypothermia, and “possible acute alcoholic intoxication.”

“I think it’s pretty clear that they were drinking, at least had a couple beers,” Portale told reporters outside court.

Prosecutors claim Graswald, 35, removed the drain plug from Viafore’s kayak and pushed a floating paddle away from him after his craft capsized and he struggled in the cold, choppy water. They claim she waited 20 minutes to call for help.

Graswald confessed “it felt good knowing he was going to die,” prosecutors said. She felt trapped in the relationship and knew she was a beneficiary of a $250,000 life insurance policy, they said.

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Graswald said she was unable to save Viafore, 46, when he capsized without a life jacket during their trip to scenic Bannerman Island, about 50 miles north of New York City. She was rescued from the water by another boater and treated for hypothermia.

“Miss Graswald is a victim here and this is an accidental drowning,” Portale said.

Friends of the couple said Graswald and Viafore were an active, affectionate pair who planned to get married at a spot on the Baltic Sea. She was not charged in his death until more than a week later. Prosecutors say she made inconsistent statement to investigators.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.