A woman who pleaded guilty over her fiance’s kayaking death has argued that she was in “the wrong place at the wrong time” when he drowned in rough waters after plunging overboard.
Angelika Graswald spoke out weeks after she was released from prison. She spent the previous two-and-a-half years behind bars after pleading guilty to the criminally negligent homicide of her groom-to-be Vincent Viafore.
The 46-year-old drowned in New York's Hudson River as the pair paddled back from a trip to Pollepel Island in April 2015.
Graswald said Viafore, who was not wearing a life jacket, capsized in the rough waves and drowned, after his kayak got caught in dangerous currents. His body was found weeks later.
Prosecutors claimed that Graswald pulled the drain plug from his kayak so it would flood. They also alleged that she took his paddle away as he struggled in the water.
Graswald denied the claims but accepted the lesser charges of being criminally negligent homicide after admitting she should have known the risks in the river that day.
Now the Latvian national has insisted she had no choice but to accept she was partly to blame over Mr Viafore’s drowning.
“I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time, bottom line,” she told ABC News 2020. “I was in danger, too, just as much as he was. I just happened to survive, and now I’m guilty?
“I tried to help him. I tried to paddle toward him. It’s just not fair how they’re portraying me as a cold blooded murderer or killer.
“I’m not cold, and I’m not heartless. I’m a person with feelings. I love people. I love Vince. I love his family. I love my friends and his friends. I didn’t just go out and coldheartedly let him die.”
She claimed that she was pushed into accepting the lesser charges levelled against her. She said it was either that or face the possibility of spending a lifetime behind bars if she had been found guilty of murder.
“I don't want felony on my record," she said. "I'm not a felon. How do I live with that? It's not fair, it's not right, I didn't kill him. Why?
“They said: ‘Chance to go away for life. Take the plea and get out in December’. I went that way because everything is taken as a package.”
Graswald was sentenced to one to four years in prison in November 2017 and was released just before Christmas after spending two-and-a-half years in jail.
Mr Viafore’s sister Laura Rice believes Graswald played a part in her brother's drowning because she accepted her charges.
“She definitely did something; otherwise she would have fought it,” she told The New York Times. “She still took a plea. An innocent person doesn’t take a plea.”
In Grawald’s trial, it surfaced that she had told the police it “felt good knowing he was going to die” when she watched Mr Viafore struggling in the water, and that it was a “relief” he was dead.
She had complained that he had been forcing her to take part in sexual acts with other couples.
“He pushed for everything, he pushed for sex, for sexual stuff," she said. "He wanted threesomes, four - everything, and I was not ready.”
Prosecutors argued that this showed motive for their claims she had murdered Mr Viafore. They also pointed out she was the sole beneficiary of some $250,000 (£179,000) in life insurance policies when he died.
They have now declined to discuss the case.