New York woman indicted for murder for pulling plug on fiancé's kayak

Reuters News
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Posted: May 26, 2015 4:53 PM

By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK - A kayaker who reported her fiance missing after they capsized on the Hudson River was indicted for murder, accused of pulling the plug on his boat and pushing his paddle out of reach, a prosecutor said on Tuesday.

Angelika Graswald, 35, was indicted on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter, Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler told reporters at a press conference.

The indictment against Graswald in the death of Vincent Viafore, 46, both from Poughkeepsie, New York, was unsealed days after his body was found on Saturday floating in the river not far from where they had been paddling near Bannerman's Island, about 50 miles (80 km) north of New York City.

A search for Viafore has been underway since April 19, when Graswald called 911 to report him missing.

Graswald, who was engaged to be married to Viafore, was arrested on April 30 after she gave inconsistent statements to police, Hoovler said.

Graswald initially said she and Viafore were kayaking on the Hudson when choppy waters caused Viafore's kayak to capsize and she never saw him again, according to a police press release. He was not wearing a life jacket.

"Graswald killed her fiance by, among other ways, removing a plug from his kayak so that it would fill with water, and tampering with his paddle," Hoovler's office said in a statement.

"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," the statement said.

Prosecutors have said that Graswald stood to benefit by $250,000 from Viafore's life insurance policies.

Graswald's attorney, Richard Portale, called the charges in the indictment "a rush to judgment" that would prove unfounded.

"I don't think they can prove this is a murder, that it's anything but a terrible accident," Portale said.

Graswald is currently being held in the Orange County Jail, with her bail set at $3 million cash or $9 million bond.

Viafore's body was recovered after authorities received a call "that there possibly was a human body floating down the river" not far from West Point, just south of Bannerman's Island, Sheriff Carl DuBois said at the press conference.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)