The woman who told police her fiancé had fatally fallen into the Hudson River while they were kayaking pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide on Monday. Angelika Graswald, 37, was charged with Vincent Viafore's murder in 2015, and had previously insisted, "I needed a chance to let people know that I'm innocent. I'm being accused of murder, which I'm not capable of doing."
Graswald claimed that she and her fiancé, Viafore, 46, had gone to Bannerman's Island and were headed back to Cornwall by kayaks on April 19, 2015 when his kayak overturned. Viafore was not wearing a life jacket at the time. The day's conditions were reportedly very bad for kayaking, with strong winds and rough water.
After Viafore's disappearance, Graswald told TV stations, "I saw him struggling a little bit, he was trying to figure out how to paddle the waves…because they were getting crazy... And then I just saw him flip... He said, 'I don't think I'm gonna make it,' and I said ‘What are you talking about? Of course you are.'" She also said, "He kept, like, watching me, and I kept watching him," and claims she called out, "Just hold on, just hold on!"
Police found Viafore's body in May. Investigators said that Graswald admitted to pulling out the plug of Viafore's kayak and that she gave inconsistent statements. They also pointed to the fact that she was the beneficiary of Viafore's $250,000 life insurance policies.
Her attorneys said she was coerced into confessing. She pleaded not guilty to murder in 2015, and has been in custody since.
“As Vincent attempted to kayak across the Hudson River, he struggled in his kayak, correct?” Byrne asked.
“Yes,” Graswald answered, grimacing as she fought back tears.
“His kayak took on water and began to sink, correct?”
“His kayak took on water because of the plug being out, and the conditions of the river, correct?”
“As his kayak took on water, he entered the river and was out of his kayak, correct?”
Graswald broke down crying. The judge gave her a few moments to compose herself. Byrne repeated the question.
“Yes.”The NY Times reports
that Graswald will be sentenced on November 1st, and could be sentenced to anywhere from 15 months to four years in prison under the terms of the agreement. Her attorney said that because she has spent 27 months in custody, Graswald could be released in late December.
"We've maintained from the very beginning this was not an intentional act," attorney Richard Portale said.
"Because the Latvian native is a resident alien, the judge advised her that her conviction could lead to immigration consequences such as deportation," reports the Times Herald-Record.