Angelika Graswald, the New York woman who pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide in the drowning death of her fiancé as they kayaked on the Hudson River in 2015, was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months to four years in state prison, her attorney confirms to PEOPLE.
Graswald had faced murder charges in the death of Vincent Viafore, 46, but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge in July.
Graswald’s attorney, Richard Portale, previously told PEOPLE he expects her to be home as early as next month due to time served since her arrest in April of 2015.
At the sentencing, Viafore’s sister, Laura Rice, told Judge Robert Freehill that she thinks of her brother’s “last moments alive…and I visualize him trying to survive hypothermia in the freezing cold river, confused and not understanding why the woman who said she loved him and wanted to marry him did nothing to help him,” reports the Poughkeepsie Journal.
Viafore drowned on April 19, 2015 in the Hudson River after his kayak capsized in rough seas and windy conditions. He and Graswald were kayaking back to the mainland from an afternoon on Bannerman Island, an island in the Hudson River in Dutchess County.
Ten days later, Graswald was charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after police said she told them she removed a plug from the kayak to destabilize it and had taken a connector off the paddle.
Once Viafore was in the river, prosecutors said Graswald pulled Viafore’s paddle away from him as he fought for his life, then waited until he had drowned before calling 911.
The motive was $ 250,000 in life insurance policies, prosecutors said.
In her plea deal to the reduced charges, Graswald admitted she knew that the locking clip to Viaforte’s kayak paddle was missing, that he was not wearing a life vest or a wet suit, and that the waters in the Hudson River were dangerously cold and rough at the time.
But it was Graswald’s lack of urgency in seeking help for Viafore after he entered the freezing April waters that Judge Freehill said led to Viafore’s death.
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“It was the immediate act of your being in your kayak and Vincent floundering in the water, and you taking no action to help him,” Freehill said, according to the Times-Herald Record.
Graswald has long maintained her innocence regarding the murder charges. In a statement her attorney released after the sentencing hearing, Graswald said: “I am not a murderer. I’ve said that from the beginning. If I could do anything to bring Vince back, I would.”
Graswald is a native of Latvia, and Viafore’s family wants Graswald deported after she finishes her sentence — a sentence they feel is far too short, the Poughkeepsie Journal reports.
In an interview with reporters after the hearing, Viafore’s mother, Mary Ann Viafore, told reporters that “justice was not served for my son. Four years for taking someone’s life? No way.”
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