Cold-Hearted in Cold Water? “Kayak Killer” Pleads Guilty to Criminally Negligent Homicide


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Diabolical. If what prosecutors maintained is true, that’s all we can say about New York’s Angelika Graswald, who pleaded guilty Monday to criminally negligent homicide by sabotaging her fiance’s kayak before his fatal paddling trip on the Hudson River. Now she’s going from the Big Apple to the Big House…

Graswald, 37, was charged with murdering her fiancé Vincent Viafore in 2015 by sabotaging his kayak before the two took a cold-water, spring paddling trip on the Hudson River. According to police reports and records, around 4 p.m. on April 19, 2015, Graswald and her fiancé Vincent Viafore, 46, set out kayaking in the Hudson River from the mainland to Bannerman Island in fairly calm waters. On their return trip around 7 p.m. the seas became turbulent, with waves, currents and wind, and Viafore capsized.

On Monday, according to PEOPLE magazine, she pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide, with sentencing slated for Nov. 1, where she’ll face from 16 months to four years behind bars, with credit for time served (since her April 30, 2015 arrest, Graswald has been awaiting trial in Orange County Jail on a $3 million bail or $9 million bond).

“I knew the story would get a ton of attention, because it has all the ingredients of a classic murder mystery–the sketchy foreign ingenue, likable victim and plenty of questions about what really happened,” says Jeff Moag, a former editor for Canoe & Kayak and Paddler magazines who wrote a story on the case for Outside Online. “And as a boater I saw it as an opportunity to educate people. Because whatever really happened that night there’s no way Vincent Viafore would have died if he had been wearing a wetsuit and life jacket.”.”

In his story, deftly titled “8 Reasons Why Angelika Graswald Won’t Be Convicted of Murder,” Moag writes… “She was present when her fiance drowned during a kayaking trip last year, and even told authorities she wanted him dead. But there’s no way a jury will convict. Here’s why.”

Turns out the jury didn’t have to convict; she pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide.

But Moag says it’s hard to know what actually happened. “In my gut I have the feeling that there’s something more to it,” he says. “The drain plug is just a red herring.” He notes that she also allegedly tampered with the paddle. “The other suspicious thing is that she also took the lock-link connection ring out of the breakdown paddle so it wouldn’t work properly,” he says.

Still, he maintains that Viafore violated so many conventional safety protocols for paddling that there’s no way a jury could convict her. “The dude made so many mistakes in terms of paddling safety,” he says. “The reason a good lawyer could get her off is all the safety rules he disregarded…most importantly no PFD or thermal protection, and going out in cold water and bad weather. All those are much more of a factor than a missing drain plug. Whether she wanted him dead or not, to me all these things override it.”

Graswald was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Viafore, whose body was recovered from the Hudson River. Prosecutors said Graswald removed the drain plug on the top of the kayak to allow it to fill with water and become unstable. They also maintained Graswald knew that the locking clip to Viaforte’s kayak paddle was missing; that he was not wearing a life vest or a wetsuit (though he had a flotation cushion strapped to the back); that the water was dangerously cold; and that Graswald would have collected $250,000 in life insurance benefits from his death.

In his story, Moag writes: “In the days after Latvian émigré Angelika Graswald watched her fiancé slip from his kayak into the cold waters of the Hudson River on April 19, 2015, she posted a video of herself doing cartwheels on Facebook and sang karaoke at his remembrance party…When she returned ten days after the accident to place flowers on the island they’d visited in their kayaks, a detective was there to meet her. She told him she’d removed the drain plug from the kayak of her fiancé, Vincent Viafore. The next day authorities charged her with his murder…”

According to, Graswald’s attorney, Richard Portale, had long maintained Viafore died accidentally when his kayak capsized and he fell into the cold and rough waters.

“This plea ensures that the defendant will be held criminally liable for her actions,” said Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler in a statement, according to “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.”

Graswald had steadfastly maintained her innocence, describing Viaforte’s death to People magazine as a tragic accident and not a homicide.

Read People magazine story HERE

Staff Post
Staff Post
Paddlers writing about all things paddling.


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