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Woman Pleads Not Guilty in Death of Fiance During Kayaking Trip

Prosecutors say Angelika Graswald sabotaged her husband's kayak so it would fill with water on the Hudson River, then denied him help.
Image: Angelika Graswald
Angelika Graswald stands in court with her attorneys Jeffrey Chartier and Richard Portale at her arraignment in Goshen, New York, on Friday, May 29, 2015. Graswald is accused of killing Vincent Viafore, her fiance, on the Hudson River by sabotaging his kayak.Allyse Pulliam / Times Herald-Record via AP

A New York woman pleaded not guilty Friday to charges she killed her fiancé as the two kayaked last month in the frigid waters of the Hudson River.

Angelika Graswald, 35, of Poughkeepsie, has been indicted by an Orange County grand jury on charges of second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Vincent Viafore, 46.

The case against Graswald began as a presumed accident during a kayak trip on the Hudson on April 19. Initially, New York State Police believed Viafore’s kayak was overcome by choppy waters and capsized.

Graswald called 911 at the time, authorities said, and later said in a television interview that Viafore had struggled to stay afloat before he disappeared in the river.

Related: Woman Charged With Murdering Fiance Who Disappeared When Kayak Capsized

But prosecutors say the evidence and Graswald’s own statements, made to state police, tell a darker story.

Just before Graswald’s arrest, they say she confessed to killing her fiancé, telling police, "it felt good knowing he (Viafore) was going to die," and implying that "this was her only way out," Assistant District Attorney Julie Mohl said in an earlier court hearing.

The indictment alleges Graswald removed the plug to Viafore’s kayak so it would fill with water and then failed to help him as he struggled to stay afloat. Prosecutors have said that Viafore’s insurance policies, from which Graswald stood to gain, were the likely motive.

Graswald’s attorney, Richard Portale, told reporters Friday that his client, a Latvian national, likely did not understand investigators’ questions, and he said her statements were given without legal counsel present.

Results from an autopsy have not been made public, but Portale believed they would show Viafore’s death was by accident, not foul play. He said the couple had been drinking just before they launched their kayaks in the river.

Graswald is currently being held in a county jail, pending a $3million cash bail or $9million bond, neither of which, he says, she can afford. He said his client has been forced to seek donations on crowdfunding sites to pay for her defense.

"This is a woman of limited financial means," he said. "Her family is in Latvia and it has had zero communication with her.” Graswald’s next court hearing is set for June 22.