Woman Who Sabotaged Fiancé’s Kayak Is Sentenced to Up to 4 Years–The New York Times

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Angelika Graswald in court in 2015. Ms. Graswald was sentenced to 16 months to four years in jail on Wednesday. CreditPool photo by Allyse Pulliam

The woman who pleaded guilty to sabotaging her fiancé’s kayak shortly before he drowned on the couple’s 2015 trip on the Hudson River was sentenced on Wednesday to 16 months to four years in jail.

The woman, Angelika Graswald, had faced manslaughter and murder charges in the death of her fiancé, Vincent Viafore — whom prosecutors said she had watched drown, even moving a paddle out of his reach as he flailed in the water — and a sentence of 25 years to life imprisonment if convicted. In July, she pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide as part of a deal with prosecutors.

Ms. Graswald, 37, who was sentenced in Orange County Court in Goshen, N.Y., will be given credit for the two and half years she has already spent in jail since her arrest. She was expected to be released before the end of the year.

“Never would I have imagined waking up one day and finding myself behind bars, charged with murdering the man I love,” Ms. Graswald said in a statement, sent by her lawyer on Wednesday along with pictures of the couple holding hands by a river. “This entire process has been incredibly difficult for me. I love Vince very much and miss him terribly. When we went kayaking that day my intention was for both of us to come home,” she wrote, adding that she believed she was treated unfairly by an unjust system.

“I am not a murderer,” she wrote. “I’ve said that from the beginning. If I could do anything to bring Vince back, I would.”

What had begun as a distress call to 911 from a devastated fiancée reporting a tragic accident on the water ended with the police zeroing in on Ms. Graswald for orchestrating Mr. Viafore’s death. The couple were returning from Bannerman Island, north of West Point, on a windswept April day when Mr. Viafore’s boat took on water and capsized, according to what Ms. Graswald originally told the police. Later, prosecutors said that it was no accident, that she had removed the craft’s plug and was aware that a clip to lock the kayak paddles in place was gone.

Mr. Viafore, 46, was to be Ms. Graswald’s third husband, and authorities building the case argued her motive was to cash in on his hefty life insurance policies, about $250,000, to which she was entitled. His body was recovered that May. In the days shortly after his disappearance into the Hudson, Ms. Graswald’s friends told authorities, she appeared strangely unmoved, including singing karaoke at a bar. When investigators joined her on Bannerman Island about a week after Mr. Viafore’s death, an officer said she came on to him and said of her fiancé’s last moments, it “felt good knowing he was going to die.”

Richard A. Portale, Ms. Graswald’s lawyer, contended throughout that she was pushed by the investigators to make statements that implicated her. Originally from Latvia, she fell victim to the language barrier during a lengthy interrogation, Mr. Portale said at the time, so unaware of her rights that she asked the police, “Who’s Miranda?”

In her guilty plea to criminally negligent homicide in late July, Ms. Graswald admitted she unplugged the kayak and was aware of the risky weather for the excursion. But, her lawyer said at the time, it was not an admission that she intended her fiancé to die.

In a statement at the time of the plea, David M. Hoovler, the district attorney for Orange County, expressed it differently: “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.”

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