New York Kayak Murder Case: Interrogation Video Reveals More Details About Victim’s Mysterious Death

Angelika Graswald is accused of intentionally killing her fiancé while kayaking.

September 11, 2015, 10:30 PM

— -- Never-before-seen interrogation video of Angelika Graswald, the woman accused of killing her fiancé Vincent Viafore while kayaking in New York’s Hudson River, reveals more details about the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death.

Graswald, 35, says she and Viafore, 46, had been out kayaking on the Hudson River on April 19. She said his kayak flipped over and she wasn’t able to reach him before he disappeared beneath the surface.

Prosecutors claim Graswald admitted to tampering with Viafore’s paddle and the drain plug on his kayak, which they allege she did on purpose to make him drown. Graswald is now facing second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges related to his death. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

After her arrest in April, New York State Police questioned Graswald, a Latvian native, for nearly 12 hours, which her defense attorney Richard Portale said was a “grueling” experience for her, especially since she still struggles with the English language. In video footage from the interrogation obtained by ABC News, Graswald was seen cooped up overnight, stretching in various yoga poses.

During the interrogation, Graswald told investigators that she had removed the drain plug from Viafore’s kayak days before they went out, and didn’t realize she hadn’t put it back until they were already out on the Hudson. When asked why she hadn’t brought the plug with her, she said, “I thought he had it,” and then later she said, “He didn't have it because I guess I had it.”

“We were already in the water. I’m like, ‘Yo, where’s your plug. Are you kidding me? I was mad at him,” she told investigators. “His boat starting to get lower in the water… because of the waves, because of the plug not being in there… [The kayak] started to fill up, and I knew that the plug wasn’t in there. I was like ‘oh this is not good.’”

Viafore wasn’t wearing a life jacket or a protective dry suit, and had been drinking that day, which was confirmed by the toxicology report obtained by ABC News. Graswald told investigators that she tried to get closer to Viafore to help him, but the water was too rough.

She then told investigators that she watched him struggle as she called 911. In a tape of the 911 call obtained by ABC News, Graswald is heard telling the 911 operator that she couldn’t reach Viafore and to please send help.

“He has something that he's holding onto, but it's getting very bad. The waves are very strong, I can still see his head,” Graswald said during the 15-minute call.

Then, before the call ends, Graswald told the operator, “I think he drowned, I need him to be rescued.”

Police noted in their reports that water temperatures at the time of the incident were around 40 degrees and Graswald was treated for hypothermia at a local hospital and released.

“The only thing that she could’ve done, would’ve been to have him hold onto her boat, and bulldoze him to shore,” said expert kayaker Carl Ladd, who is an American Canoe Association level-five instructor. “But with water temperatures that cold, he might not have made it... She was lucky to survive as well.”

Viafore’s body was found in the Hudson River near the United States Military Academy at West Point about a month later on May 23. The Orange County, New York, medical examiner ruled Viafore's death by drowning, according to the autopsy report, a copy of which was obtained by ABC News.

There is controversy surrounding the medical examiner’s conclusion that Viafore’s death was a homicide by a “kayak drain plug intentionally removed by other.” Attorney Richard Portale has disputed these findings, saying it was based on investigators’ speculation.

“He wasn’t careful, he didn’t respect the water, he didn’t respect the Hudson River,” Portale said. “He wasn’t wearing a life vest, he wasn’t wearing a wet suit... the water temp was 46 degrees. There are many reasons why he died. My client removing the drain plug was not one of them.

Several kayaking experts told ABC News that a missing drain plug would not cause a kayak to sink, even in rough water.

“That she set out to kill him via the drain plug in my mind is ridiculous. I don’t see that as being plausible at all,” Ladd said. “If she wanted to kill him by kayak all she would have had to have done is basically capsize his boat and paddle away… [but] the kayaks they were in were not designed for the conditions that they were in.”

During the interrogation, Graswald never says she tried to kill Viafore, but she admitted that her relationship with him had taken a toll.

“He pushed for everything, he pushed for sex, for sexual stuff,” she told police. “He wanted threesomes, four -- everything, and I was not ready.”

But even though Graswald said he was demanding and often jealous, she said she still wanted to share a life with him.

“The truth is I wanted to have kids with him, get married, and live happily ever after,” she said. “He told me he wanted the same things but he wasn’t doing anything for it... he was driving me crazy for a long time.”

Police claim she told them she was relieved that he was dead. When asked during the interrogation how watching him in the water made her feel, she said, “euphoric.”

“I still do,” she said.

Portale says Graswald still has trouble with English and cultural differences, and that prosecutors’ accusations against her have led to an unfair portrayal of his client.

“She was the victim just like he was of a tragic accident, and now she’s being painted as a murderer, and we’re trying to avoid her being the victim again,” he said.

ABC News' Chief Legal Analyst Dan Abrams says prosecutors have a tough case ahead of them.

“A confession would be her saying, ‘I did it, I killed him.’ An incriminating statement is, ‘I’m relieved that he’s gone.’ Those are two very different things,” Abrams said. “The prosecution’s theory is that she lures him out there, knows he’s going to die in the river and she’s not going to help… [but] it’s going to have to be beyond a reasonable doubt, and based on what we know right now, that’s not going to be easy.”

Graswald has been in jail since April, with her bail set at $3 million in cash or $9 million bond. She is due in court next on Oct. 16.

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