ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A woman accused of killing her fiance and falsely reporting he died in a kayaking accident volunteered as a gardener on the scenic Hudson River island where police say the crime happened.
Angelika Graswald was charged with murder on Thursday, 11 days after reporting Vincent Viafore had capsized into choppy, chilly water during a paddle near Bannerman Island, 50 miles north of New York City.
Viafore, 46, is believed to be dead, but his body hasn't been found. Police aren't commenting on how they believe he died or a possible motive.
Graswald began volunteering three years ago in the gardens on Bannerman Island, a landmark for its crumbling, castle-like 19th-century arsenal near the river's east shore, Bannerman Castle Trust executive director Neil Caplan said.
"She's a very nice person and a hard worker," he said. "We're all stunned."
Caplan said events took a turn when Graswald, an avid photographer, visited the island on Wednesday and met investigators.
"She was there with police, and they had asked her to walk around," he said. "It seemed they may have had some suspicions about her."
Caplan said Graswald was arrested after leaving the island with police. Authorities said she was charged based on "inconsistencies" in her account of Viafore's disappearance.
Graswald, in her initial report and later in social media postings, described watching Viafore topple into the water during the April 19 outing and being unable to help as she also fell into the water. A boater rescued her, and she was treated for hypothermia.
Law enforcement authorities said Graswald, who was jailed without bail, did not have a lawyer to comment for her as of Friday. She's due in court Tuesday.
Caplan said Viafore visited the island with Graswald once last year but members of his organization didn't get to know him.
Images posted to online sites show an active, affectionate couple spending time outdoors, particularly on the water, and a message about their plans to be married at a spot on the Baltic Sea.
Graswald, 35, was born in Latvia and lived in Connecticut, where newspaper accounts show her winning honors in local photography contests. Records show she married twice there and divorced at least once.
In an interview after her arrest with News 12 Westchester, she denied killing Viafore, saying she was falsely accused based on outdated entries in her diary that included her writing there were times she wished him dead because he pushed her for rough sex and wanted her to engage in threesomes.
Viafore's former wife, Suzanne Viafore, described him as "a great man."
"I was married to him for 14 years. I was with him for 18 years," she said Friday. "I knew him. I knew his character."
Prosecutors said the case against Graswald will be presented to a grand jury early next week. Searchers in helicopters, in boats and on foot continued Friday looking for Viafore.
Associated Press researcher Barbara Sambriski in New York contributed to this report.
Follow George M. Walsh on Twitter at https://twitter.com/gmwalshAP