Woman gets up to 4 years in fiance's river kayaking death

Posted at 10:45 AM, Nov 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-08 15:24:50-05

GOSHEN, N.Y. (AP) — A woman who admitted removing a plug from her fiance's kayak before it capsized in the Hudson River but maintained she was falsely accused of intentionally causing his death was sentenced on Wednesday to up to four years in state prison.

Angelika Graswald, 37, pleaded guilty last summer to criminally negligent homicide in the death of her fiance, Vincent Viafore, 46, of Poughkeepsie. Her sentence, of 16 months to four years, means she could be released on parole as soon as late December, based on the amount of time she spent in jail awaiting trial.

"I loved Vince very much and miss him terribly," she said in a statement read by her lawyer, Richard Portale, after the hearing. "I don't believe I was treated fairly. This entire process was incredibly one-sided and unjust."

The sentencing wrapped up an unusual case that began when Graswald had a chance encounter with police investigators when she returned to lay flowers on the Hudson River island that she and her fiance had visited the day he died.

Police initially considered Viafore's death in choppy, frigid waters during the couple's 2015 kayaking trip an accident. But Graswald made some suspicious comments to investigators, including mentioning that she had removed a plug from the kayak before they put it in the water.

Graswald was questioned for 11 hours and told police she was ambivalent about Viafore's drowning because they had been in a bad relationship.

"I wanted him dead, and now he's gone and I'm fine with it," she said during the interrogation.

Police and prosecutors developed a theory that Graswald, also of Poughkeepsie, plotted to kill Viafore to collect some of the $250,000 from his life insurance policies. Graswald initially was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Her trial was about a month away in July when prosecutors abandoned the murder accusation amid questions about whether they would be able to prove a case based mostly on her contradictory statements.

In exchange, Graswald, a Latvian national, pleaded guilty to the negligent-homicide charge. She could face deportation after her sentence is completed, prosecutors said.

Viafore's relatives have said they wanted a harsher punishment.

"My brother did not deserve to have his life end this way," Viafore's sister, Laura Rice, said in a pre-sentence victim impact statement. "Our family feels Angelika should be held accountable for the actions she has admitted to where a short four-year sentence does not seem just."