Fiancee Denies Murdering Missing Kayaker on Hudson River: “He Was the Love of My Life”

The 35-year-old woman charged with murdering her 46-year-old fiancé, who vanished 12 days ago when his kayak capsized on the Hudson River, told NBC 4 New York from her jail cell Friday that she didn't kill him.

"Of course I didn't do it. He was the love of my life," Angelika Graswald said.

Authorities allege Graswald intentionally killed Vincent Viafore, of Poughkeepsie, while the two were kayaking in choppy waters off Cornwall-On-Hudson in Orange County April 19. Viafore's kayak overturned, dumping him in the water; his kayak was found but his body has not been recovered.

Graswald was arrested Wednesday while placing flowers on Bannerman's Island, an island in the Hudson near the spot where she and Viafore had gone to kayak the day he disappeared. Authorities would not discuss the method, manner or motive of the alleged murder.

They said the charges against Graswald stem from inconsistencies in her story.

Wearing a white prison jumpsuit, a makeup-less Graswald told NBC 4 New York "of course there were inconsistencies."

"There still are. It was a crazy time," said Graswald, who worked as a gardener volunteer for the Bannerman Castle Trust. She says she was surprised she was arrested, but "can see why."

"I was doing crazy things," Graswald said.

Her Facebook page is flooded with pictures of her and her smiling fiancé, as well as videos and photos of her cat Raskal, whom she calls her "little white tiger."

Initially, authorities had said Graswald tried to help her submerged fiancé, who wasn't wearing a life jacket when his boat flipped. She called 911 and then fell out of her own kayak. A passing boat scooped up Graswald and she was treated for hypothermia at a local hospital, authorities said.

Her Facebook page features an outpouring of support, both from friends and strangers alike. One Facebook user wrote about remembering "Vinny" from their youth -- attending Catholic school together and playing games like Monopoly and Wiffle ball in her basement.

Graswald herself posted 11 days ago: "Please keep your prayers for Vince. Miracles are possible."

Graswald, who is Latvian and uses several aliases, according to authorities, was remanded to jail after her arraignment Thursday and is due in court next week. The matter will be presented to a grand jury, authorities said. She is being represented by Legal Aid.

A calm, soft-spoken Graswald told NBC 4 New York Friday she came to the United States when she was 15 and worked for a few months as a nanny in Greenwich, Connecticut. She had no legal right to be in the U.S. at the time, she said, but she has a green card now. Graswald said she got her first real job tending bar at the age of 21 and is relying on emotional support from her family in Latvia now.

In an interview after her arrest with News 12 Westchester, she denied killing Viafore, saying she was falsely accused based on outdated entries in her diary that included her writing there were times she wished him dead because he pushed her for rough sex and wanted her to engage in threesomes.

Graswald began volunteering three years ago in the gardens on Bannerman Island, a landmark for its crumbling, castle-like 19th-century arsenal near the river's east shore, Bannerman Castle Trust executive director Neil Caplan said.

"She's a very nice person and a hard worker," he said. "We're all stunned."

Caplan said events took a turn when Graswald, an avid photographer, visited the island on Wednesday and met investigators.

"She was there with police, and they had asked her to walk around," he said. "It seemed they may have had some suspicions about her."

Barbara Gottlock, a friend of Graswald who did volunteer work with her, told NBC 4 New York Thursday that Graswald seemed to be "happy and in love" with her fiance.

"She never said anything in my presence negative about him," she said.

Gottlock said she and her husband, whose home overlooks the water, remember seeing Graswald and Viafore just as they pushed their kayaks into the water from Bannerman's Island.

"I could see a woman and a man out there, but I couldn't make out faces," Gottlock said. "We put two and two together and figured that's her. And then she sent a few pictures from the island before she left."  

Viafore's former wife, Suzanne Viafore, described him as "a great man."

"I was married to him for 14 years. I was with him for 18 years," she said Friday. "I knew him. I knew his character."

Prosecutors said the case against Graswald will be presented to a grand jury early next week. Searchers in helicopters, in boats and on foot continued Friday looking for Viafore.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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