New York kayak murder case: Woman sentenced to four years in prison for fiance’s death
A woman who pleaded guilty to charges related to the death of her fiancé during a 2015 kayaking trip on the Hudson River in New York was sentenced to four years in prison today.
Orange County Court Judge Robert Freehill said four years was the maximum sentence allowed for the charge, and acknowledged that Graswald had already been in custody for the past two years. In addition to her sentence, Graswald was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.
Graswald and her fiancé, 46-year-old Vince Viafore, were kayaking on the Hudson River on April 19, 2015, when his kayak capsized and he disappeared, authorities said. Graswald was arrested and charged a few weeks later. Viafore’s body was recovered on May 23, 2015.
Graswald, a 37-year-old native of Latvia, was originally charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in 2015, and had pleaded not guilty to both charges. Weeks before the case was set to go to trial, Graswald reached an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to the lesser felony charge of negligent homicide in July, in which she admitted she should have perceived the risks of the dangers out on the water that day. She has always maintained she never intended to kill Viafore.
Graswald appeared calm when her attorneys brought her into the courtroom today and she stayed silent when Viafore’s sister, Laura Rice, shared a statement in court. Rice described her younger brother as a “caring person” who “touched many lives,” adding that he was someone who loved to cook and had mastered smoked ribs.
“As for my mother …this is truly one of the most devastating experiences a mother could go to,” Rice said.
Shortly after the judge announced her sentence, Graswald was led out of the courtroom. Afterwards, her defense attorney Richard Portale, standing outside of the courthouse, read a statement on Graswald’s behalf, which read in part, “Never would I have imagined waking up one day and finding myself behind bars, charged with murdering the man I love. This entire process has been incredibly difficult for me… I don’t believe I have been treated fairly.”
When asked for her reaction to the sentencing, Viafore’s mother Mary Ann Viafore, said, “It’s raw, but four years for taking someone’s life? No way…. my son was a good man and everybody loved him.”
Prosecutors claimed Graswald removed a plug from Viafore’s kayak, causing the kayak to take on water and sink.
In a nearly 12-hour taped interrogation by police 10 days after Viafore disappeared, Graswald repeatedly denied killing her fiancé and said her desperate calls to 911 were real. She also said during that interrogation, in which she practiced various yoga poses, that she was “OK” with Viafore’s death and “wanted him dead.”
Graswald told ABC News’ Elizabeth Vargas in a November 2015 jailhouse interview that she was at her “breaking point” during the taped police interrogation.
“They kept me asking me the same questions like a hundred times. I knew that I was innocent,” Graswald told Vargas at the time. “I was at my breaking point … I just gave them what they wanted.”
She also denied to ABC News’ “20/20” that she had removed the plug from Viafore’s kayak with the intent to kill him, saying, “No, I did not.”
“I didn’t kill him. … I loved him,” Graswald said at the time. “I’m not a killer. I’m a good person.”
ABC News’ Emily Shapiro contributed to this report.
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