GOSHEN, N.Y. (AP) — A Latvian expatriate accused of killing her fiance during a Hudson River kayak outing was known for her charm and outgoing nature but also had an impulsive streak that could cause trouble, friends said.
Angelika Graswald, 35, is due in court Wednesday for a bail hearing. She is accused of murder in the death of Vincent Viafore, 46, and then falsely reporting she was unable to save him after his kayak capsized in choppy water April 19.
Her lawyers are asking for bail in the absence of an indictment and have declined so far to comment on the case. Prosecutors, who haven’t released details of why or how they believe Viafore was killed, will have to make a case for holding her during the hearing.
Police say the crime happened 50 miles north of New York City on Bannerman Island, a scenic ruin near the east shore where Graswald volunteered as a gardener. Viafore’s body hasn’t been found.
Police said the couple set out from a park on the western shore, and Graswald reported both fell into the water. They said she was wearing a life jacket, but Viafore was not. She was rescued by another boater and treated for hypothermia.
Authorities have said she was charged based on “inconsistencies” in her account of Viafore’s disappearance.
Since her arrest almost two weeks ago, those who know Graswald have been trying to square the fun-loving woman they knew with the killer described by authorities.
“The bubbly, bouncy little ballerina girl had a dark side,” said Mike Colvin, a disc jockey in Poughkeepsie she lived with from November 2008 to June 2010. Still, he never saw Graswald act in a way that suggested violence.
Graswald could walk into a room full of strangers and know everyone’s name by the time she left, Colvin said. But he said he also had authority issues and could make unwise snap decisions when angry. She had run through two marriages and a string of jobs by her mid-30s. The impulsiveness apparently contributed to her checkered job history at restaurants and other businesses.
“They would have staff meetings, and she would just lose it, and eventually she’d have to be let go,” Colvin said. “This happened more than once. Not a big fan of authority.”
Graswald and Viafore appeared to be a happy couple.
Images posted online show an active, affectionate pair spending time outdoors, particularly on the water, and a message about their plans to be married at a spot on the Baltic Sea. Sean Von Clauss, a professional musician from Boston who had known Viafore since boyhood, recalls how the couple would affectionately slow dance when he performed “Shama Lama Ding Dong.”
“They were always in love — singing, dancing and holding. They were always together,” Von Clauss said. “He was thrilled that he found his soul mate.”
Viafore had a booming laugh and loved to socialize — the kind of guy who would pick up the check, Von Clauss said.
Von Clauss said he saw Graswald the Friday before her arrest at a gathering to remember Viafore at a bar. She brought a poster board covered with pictures and asked Von Clauss to play “Shama Lama Ding Dong.” Usually they would play “Hotel California” together, but she asked him to play solo that night. Then she forgot the words.
“We all kind of sang along, then she sort of finished it by herself,” he said. “We all gave her a big round of applause anyway.”