In a surprise move, Angelika Graswald, charged with murdering her fiancé during a kayaking trip along the Hudson River in 2015, pleaded guilty to felony criminally negligent homicide on Monday in a case that has been the subject of national media attention.
Graswald entered the plea before Orange County Court Judge Robert H. Freehill, according to Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler.
At the time she pleaded guilty, the 37-year-old from Poughkeepsie admitted she caused the Vincent Viafore’s April 19, 2015, drowning death by removing the plug from his kayak. She also admitted she knew that the locking clip to Viafore’s kayak paddle was missing, that he was not wearing a life vest or a wet suit, and knowing that the waters in the Hudson River where they were kayaking were dangerously cold and rough at the time, Hoovler said.
Assistant District Attorney Christopher Borke said evidence shows that at the time of the incident Graswald was wearing a life jacket. Graswald admitted her actions constituted a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would have observed in the situation, and that her actions caused the death of Viafore.
The murder came to light when the Orange County 911 Center received a call that Viafore’s kayak had capsized during a kayaking trip on the Hudson River. The New York State Police and other first responders searched the river for Viafore, eventually recovering his kayak, and that of Graswald, who had been taken aboard a private vessel, Borek said.
Graswald was arrested by the state police on April 30, 2015.
On May 23, 2015, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit were notified about a body floating in the Hudson River in the vicinity of West Point. They located and secured the body until the New York State Police could respond and recover the body from the river. The body was positively identified as that of Vincent Viafore, Borek said.
The plug, which was missing from Viafore’s kayak, was eventually recovered from the center console of the car Graswald was driving, he added.
The plea will render Graswald, who is a lawful permanent resident, liable for deportation, although that decision will ultimately be made by a federal judge.
The plea agreement was entered into after extensive consultation with the victim’s family, who understand the reasons for the plea agreement, Hoovler said.
“While no outcome can compensate for the loss of a beloved son, brother, and uncle, this disposition will hopefully bring a measure of closure to the Viafore family,” said Hoovler. “This plea ensures that the defendant will be held criminally liable for her actions. By pleading guilty the defendant has acknowledged that Vincent Viafore’s death was not simply a tragic accident, but the result of this defendant’s criminal conduct.”
Graswald is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 1.
The plea agreement mandates that she be sentenced to one and one-third to four years in state prison, the maximum sentence for the charge, he added.
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