A woman who was accused of intentionally drowning her fiance in the Hudson River by tampering with his kayak as part of a murderous plot to collect on his life insurance pleaded guilty on Monday to a lesser charge that could minimize the amount of additional time she spends in jail.
Angelika Graswald, a Latvian national, had been charged with secretly removing a drain plug from Vincent Viafore’s kayak before a daylong boating excursion and then watching him drown after he capsized in the river in 2015. Her attorney had said that the death was an accident, caused by high waves, cold water and alcohol, and that police investigators had coerced her into blaming herself for the death during a lengthy interrogation.
Graswald, who had been facing murder and manslaughter charges, had been in custody awaiting trial.
Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler said Graswald, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide, admitting she caused Viafore’s death on April 19, 2015, by removing the plug from his kayak, knowing that he wasn’t wearing a life vest or wetsuit and that the Hudson River waters were dangerous and cold. The couple had been visiting an island that is home to Bannerman Castle.
Graswald was arrested on April 30, 2015, and Viafore’s body was found almost a month later. Prosecutors said the missing plug from Viafore’s kayak was found in the car Graswald was driving. Officials had argued a $250,000 life insurance policy was the motivation.
Her attorney, Richard Portale, said, “We’ve maintained from the very beginning this was not an intentional act.”
The criminally negligent homicide charge carries a sentence of up to four years in prison. Graswald is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 1. Portale said with the time she’s already been in custody she would likely be out by late December.
Hoovler said the guilty plea will make Graswald, who has legal permanent U.S. residency, liable to be deported. Portale said if the federal government filed to have her deported, there would be a court proceeding to contest it.
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