Woman Gets Max Prison Sentence In Fiancé’s Kayaking Death

GOSHEN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A woman who admitted to causing her fiancé’s death by removing a plug from his kayak before a Hudson River outing is heading to prison.

Thirty-seven-year-old Angelika Graswald was sentenced to the maximum 1 1/3 to 4 years in state prison Wednesday in Orange County Court.

But with time served, she could be out before the end of this year, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported.

Graswald was set to stand trial on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the death of 46-year-old Vincent Viafore, of Poughkeepsie, who drowned while the couple was kayaking in April 2015.

She surprised the court by pleading guilty last summer to the lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide.

Graswald, a Latvian national, admitted she caused the death of her fiancé on April 19, 2015 by removing the plug from his kayak, knowing that he wasn’t wearing a life vest or wetsuit and that the Hudson River waters were dangerous and cold.

Prosecutors said she did it for his $250,000 life insurance policy.

The plea holds her criminally liable but it is not a satisfying conclusion for Viafore’s family and friends who wanted a harsher punishment.

“Four years for taking someone’s life? No way,” his mother, Mary Ann Viafore said. “My son was a good man and everybody loved him and we miss him very much. I don’t ever want to see her again if I don’t have to.”

Angering the family even more is that Graswald is getting credit for 2 years already served, and could be released before year’s end.

“Vinny was a caring person. When he saw someone in need he didn’t think twice to help,” the victim’s sister Laura Rice said, “I think of the pain he must have endured, and not understanding why the woman who said she loved him and wanted to marry him did nothing to help him.”

Prosecutors had a star witness in a state police investigator who said Graswald confessed to removing the plug from Viafore’s kayak. They said she also delayed calling for help and pushed away a paddle that could have saved him.

In court, Graswald had no explanation or message for the family.

“You certainly have a lack of understanding of other people’s feelings,” the judge said.

After the sentencing Graswald’s attorney read a statement from her claiming that she does not believe that she ever intentionally killed anyone.

“I am not a murderer. I’ve said that since the beginning and if I could do anything to bring Vince back I would,” the statement said.

The suggestion being that she thinks she is only guilty of not helping her fiancee. Through her attorney she offered the Viafore family condolences, but they didn’t want to hear it.

“I don’t ever want to see her again if I don’t have to,’ Mary Ann said.

Ultimately, Graswald is expected to be deported back to her native Latvia.

Graswald also has to pay a $5,000 fine, something her lawyers complained about because it was separate from the plea deal.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

More From CBS New York

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS
Get Our Morning Briefs
Bloomberg WCBS Tri-State Business Index

Watch & Listen LIVE