By Jeff Moag
Prosecutors released new details of an alleged kayaking murder plot today, charging that Angelika Graswald, 35, pushed a paddle away from fiance Vincent Viafore, 46, as he struggled in the frigid waters of the Hudson River last month. Viafore’s body was found Saturday near West Point, not far from where he disappeared on the evening of April 19.
In a news conference, prosecutors said Graswald waited 25 minutes to call 911 that night, then capsized her own kayak as help approached. They also allege that she removed the drain plug from Viafore’s kayak.
Graswald’s lawyer, Richard Portale, notes that a missing drainplug would not affect the kayak’s buoyancy. The couple seems to have lacked the equipment and experience to safely make a 1.25-mile crossing in those conditions, which included 46-degree water, rising winds and dwindling light.
"With no life vest, no leash fastening him to his kayak, no skirt to prevent water from splashing in and knowing what the water temperature was, he's the master of his own destiny," Portale told the New York Times. "And now they're trying to blame my client."
A photo Graswald posted to facebook after Viafore’s dissapearance shows her paddling a sit-inside recreational kayak without a PFD or sprayskirt. She is holding the paddle upside down.
Authorities say Graswald made conflicting statements to police after Viafore’s drowning. The indictment alleges she implicated herself in Viafore’s death, saying that it "felt good knowing he was going to die." Graswald is the beneficiary of two life insurance policies belonging to Viafore, with a combined value of $250,000.
The indictment handed up today contains charges of second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. If convicted of the murder charge, Graswald would face a penalty of 25 years to life in prison.
First, prosecutors will have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Viafore’s death was no accident. That could be a challenging task, given that Graswald and Viafore disregarded so many safe kayaking taboos.
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