By the time police arrived, the woman was in the water and her fiance was nowhere to be seen. She was loaded onto a boat and treated for hypothermia, and a crew was dispatched into the darkness to look for the missing man.
“I just keep thinking where, where, where he is?” the woman, 35-year-old Angelika Graswald, told local TV station News 12 Westchester a few days later.
But according to Orange County prosecutors, Graswald knew more about the incident than she let on. On Thursday, 11 days after she was pulled from the river, Graswald was charged with second-degree murder for allegedly intentionally causing the death of her fiance, 46-year-old Vincent Viafore.
“Initially, we believed her to be a survivor of a tragic accident,” Maj. Patrick Regan, a State Police commander, said at a news conference. But “some inconsistencies in the accounts that she gave of those last minutes led investigators to be suspicious.”
Viafore’s body still hasn’t been found, and police and prosecutors would not specify what new evidence led them to charge Graswald with his death.
“She made statements that implicated herself in this crime, enough to certainly have reasonable cause to have made the arrest,” Regan said.
The arrest was a grim twist in the story of the incident, which first elicited sympathy for Graswald and has now made her a target of suspicion.
In the days after Viafore’s disappearance, Graswald seemed stricken with grief. She filled her Facebook profile with photos of herself and Viafore, including one image of a lit candle flickering in front of a framed photo of the couple. In her interview with News 12, she was red-eyed and solemn. At one point, she buried her face in her hand, sighing deeply.
“He always had his arm around her, they were lovey-dovey…. I just can’t believe it,” she said. “I always like to give people the benefit of a doubt. I think [Viafore] would want everyone to give her the benefit of a doubt. He really did love her.”
But other friends told the New York Times that Graswald sometimes behaved “as if a huge weight had fallen off her” after Viafore disappeared. Richard Graswald, her father-in-law from a previous marriage (she’d divorced Richard’s son a few years earlier but kept his last name) said she was reluctant to talk about what happened in a phone call soon after Viafore’s disappearance.
“I asked her about the accident, and she says, ‘You know, it’s a tragic thing, what can I say about it?’” he told the Times. “She was upset, of course. I didn’t prod into it.”
Speaking from the Orange County Jail, where she is being held without bail, Graswald told News 12 that she has been wrongfully accused of tampering with her fiance’s kayak to kill him.
In her account of the incident, which she explained in an interview a week before her arrest, Graswald and Viafore both struggled against the high winds and choppy waves that overtook their kayaks as they paddled in a stretch of the Hudson about 50 miles north of New York City.
“He was trying to figure out how to paddle the waves … and then I just saw him flip. Right in front of me,” she told News 12. “I keep paddling towards him saying, ‘Just hold on, hold on.’ And he said, ‘I don’t think I’m gonna make it.'”
After calling 911, Graswald — who was wearing a life vest — was dumped into the water herself. That’s when she lost sight of her fiance, she said.
Police say that Viafore wasn’t wearing a vest. But his friend Kimberly Popovich said risky behavior like that was uncharacteristic of him.
“Even though he had that side of him that was kind of an adrenaline person, he always took precautions about himself,” she told the Times. “When this story came out that he was on the Hudson at 7:30 at night in those choppy waters, 30 degrees, it just didn’t jibe with me.”
In Cornwall-on-Hudson, the tiny New York village overlooking the stretch of river where Viafore capsized, residents said the whole incident seemed suspicious.
“It didn’t add up. From day one I thought it had to be a murder myself. I really did,” Cornwall resident Larry Heneretta told CBS Thursday.
Though rescuers found Graswald and Viafore’s kayaks, Viafore remains missing. Police urged fishermen and other people on the Hudson to look for his body, which the currents could have carried almost anywhere on a 150 mile stretch of the river, according to CBS.
The missing body won’t stop Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler from moving forward with the case, though.
“Prosecuting a case without a body? It’s been done in this county before, it’s been done across the state of New York and it’s been done across the United States,” he told CBS.
On Graswald’s possible motive, Hoovler was tight-lipped.
“Not going to speak of it,” he told the Times.