Defense Attorney Says Victim's Autopsy Will Only Help Angelika Graswald's Case

GOSHEN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP)  A woman accused of killing her fiance by sabotaging his kayak on the Hudson River has pleaded not guilty.

Angelika Graswald, 35, was silent during her arraignment in Orange County Court on Friday morning as her lawyer entered the plea on murder and manslaughter charges.

The native of Latvia is charged in the April 19 death of 46-year-old Vincent Viafore, whose decomposing body was found last weekend in the river near West Point.

Graswald reported Viafore missing and claimed his kayak capsized in choppy water. She spoke with News 12 Westchester shortly after Viafore’s disappearance, saying, “I saw him struggling a little bit. He was trying to figure out how to paddle the waves because they were getting crazy and then I just saw him flip.”

But prosecutors say she removed a drain plug from Viafore’s kayak, then delayed calling for help and pushed a floating paddle away from him as he struggled in the 40-degree water. She allegedly told investigators she was happy to know he would die.

Prosecutors say Graswald was hoping to collect $250,000 in life insurance, but her lawyer, Richard Portale, said Viafore’s death was an accident. Portale also said he was skeptical of prosecution claims she admitted wrongdoing.

“Our belief is stronger than ever that Ms. Graswald is a victim here and that this was an accident,” Portale said.

The defense team has added alcohol to the mix of alternate theories, as it awaits Viafore’s final autopsy results.

“We expect to see that it was an accidental drowning and possible acute alcohol intoxication,” Portale said.

“Maybe toxicology will come back with a high level of alcohol, which is a contributing factor and, you know, we hold that it was an accidental death,” defense investigator John Fleming told CBS2’s Lou Young.

Friends of the defendant have also cast doubt on the prosecution’s evidence, with two leaving court early on Friday without comment, Young reported.

“I don’t see any evidence. Is there a kayak tampering? Have we seen this? Is there actual evidence?” Todd Guidine, Graswald’s neighbor, said back on May 13.

Graswald’s bail — $3 million cash or $9 million bond — will likely keep her behind bars until trial, which could take place in late summer, her attorney told Young.

Both the prosecution and defense have asked anyone who knew the couple to come forward with information.

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