Grand jury votes but no indictment handed down yet
Speculation continues to swirl around events leading up to and following the April 29 arrest of 35-year-old Angelika Graswald, charged with the second-degree murder of her fiancé, Vincent Viafore. Scant information has been made public by investigators and Viafore’s body is yet to be found.
On Tuesday, May 5, some media outlets reported that a grand jury had indicted Graswald on second-degree murder, however the reports proved premature. A telephone call from The Paper to the Orange County Court on the afternoon of May 6 confirmed that a formal indictment has not yet been handed down.
Grand jury investigation continues
Under New York State law, a defendant charged with a felony in criminal court must be released within six days unless a preliminary hearing is held, resulting in continued incarceration. Alternatively, a defendant can be kept in custody beyond six days if the district attorney files written certification with the court that an indictment has been voted on by a grand jury. Such a submission indicates only that a vote by the 23-member grand jury has been taken, not that a final indictment has been issued.
The preliminary hearing for Graswald scheduled for May 5 in New Windsor was canceled and the case shifted to Orange County Court in Goshen. The Paper has learned, from a source familiar with the case but who requested anonymity, that certification indicating the grand jury has voted on a charge against Graswald has been submitted to the court, however it is not yet known if or when a final indictment will be forthcoming. Grand jury investigations are confidential and can last for weeks.
Graswald, who police said holds a Latvian passport and is not a U.S. citizen, continues to be held without bail in the Orange County Jail. The Orange County Legal Aid Society is representing her.
Graswald was arrested on April 29 as she planted flowers on Bannerman’s Island.
Police initially treated Viafore’s apparent demise as a tragic accident. Graswald told authorities that she and her fiancé were kayaking on the Hudson River near Cornwall just across from Bannerman’s Island when they encountered rough waters, causing both of them to capsize. A passing boat rescued her, however Viafore, who Graswald said was not wearing a life jacket, was not found. Water temperature in the Hudson River at the time was a frigid 47 degrees Fahrenheit.
New York State Police said that inconsistencies in Graswald’s story became apparent after several interviews, leading them to believe she was directly responsible for Viafore’s death.
Local resident offers support
Cold Spring resident Dorothy Carlton attempted to visit Graswald at the Orange County Jail. “She’s had no support at all, no visitors other than reporters,“ Carlton said. “She has no family here.” Carlton said she got to know Graswald about seven years ago through the local music scene, including when Graswald worked at Whistling Willie’s American Grill. “I wanted to tell her to stop talking to the press; that was doing her no good and I just wanted her to know that she has some support and help her get a message to family.”
Carlton has also been supportive of Graswald on Facebook where she referred to her as “one of the kindest sweetest most genuine people you’ll ever meet. She couldn’t possibly have done this … Don’t let the ignorance of the press and circumstantial evidence convict this woman before she is even tried.”
Global media coverage
Carlton said she was not allowed to see Graswald, although a number of media outlets were permitted to conduct interviews, including News 12 Westchester and People magazine. Carlton said she thinks Graswald’s willingness to talk to the media may stem from a “naiveté that she can clear herself” by doing so. Graswald had recently agreed to be interviewed on the television program Inside Edition but then declined on the advice of her lawyer, although she did appear briefly on camera in the program segment dealing with her case. Media coverage has been extensive, with stories appearing in publications as far-flung as Australia and England.
Graswald, who was married previously, is known locally by the surname Lipska, including on her Facebook page. She worked at three Cold Spring restaurants in recent years. Jeff Consaga, owner of the Foundry Café, described her as a “sweetheart” and a punctual employee who “was always willing to jump in and help” with any task. “In fact, I met her at one of the (Foundry’s) New Year’s Eve parties,” he said. “She volunteered to stay after to help clean up.”
Stay at area home prompts police questioning
After the kayaking incident and before her arrest, Graswald, a Poughkeepsie resident, stayed at a home just outside the village of Cold Spring for a few days. The owner of the home spoke with The Paper but asked not to be named and would not comment on Graswald’s stay other than to confirm that on the Sunday, April 26, a few friends of Graswald gathered there for dinner. The homeowner was subsequently interviewed by New York State Police but would not comment on the nature of their questions.
Garrison resident Joel Goss was part of the small group at dinner that night. “I think she just didn’t want to be alone on the one-week anniversary” of the incident, he said. Goss described Graswald as “distraught” and struggling to cope with the situation.
“One minute she’d be talking about wanting a memorial (for Viafore) on Bannerman’s Island,” he said. “And the next minute she’d say, ‘But they haven’t found him so there’s still hope right?’” Goss confirmed that State Police interviewed the homeowner before Graswald was arrested but said that he was not contacted by law enforcement. He was unaware if police had interviewed others who attended the gathering.