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Orange County DA: 'Justice Was Done' After Woman Pleads Guilty In Fiance's Kayaking Death

GOSHEN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- "Justice was done."

That was the message from Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler Tuesday about the plea deal that could set a woman accused of killing her fiance during a kayaking trip free by the end of the year.

Angelika Graswald, who had been facing murder and manslaughter charges, pleaded guilty on Monday to the lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide.

At a news conference Tuesday, Hoovler said "justice demanded that the defendant in this case be prosecuted," adding that "in the end, I thought justice was done with this plea."

"Everyone wants more," Hoovler said. "But in this case, we had to make sure that there was a certain outcome and that somebody was held responsible and that's what we did."

Hoovler said that Graswald admitted she caused the death of her fiance, Vincent Viafore, on April 19, 2015 by removing the plug from his kayak, knowing that he wasn't wearing a life vest or wetsuit and that the Hudson River waters were dangerous and cold. The couple had been visiting an island that is home to Bannerman Castle.

Graswald was arrested on April 30, 2015, and Viafore's body was found almost a month later. Prosecutors said the missing plug from Viafore's kayak was found in the car Graswald was driving. Officials had argued a $250,000 life insurance policy was the motivation.

But Hoovler said Tuesday the fact that she pulled the plug from the boat wasn't enough to convict her of intentionally killing her fiance.

"We found that the kayak did swamp itself," he said. "Its performance capability was hindered by more water being in it and when you take that in conjunction with the fact that he was not wearing a life jacket, the weather was deteriorating."

Her attorney, Richard Portale, said, "We've maintained from the very beginning this was not an intentional act."

"Knowing what the weather was like, the size of the waves, knowing the water was at 40 degrees, Vince wasn't wearing a life vest," Portale said. "All those things created a risk of death and she failed to perceive it."

The 37-year-old Latvian national was engaged to Viafore for only a few weeks before his death.

"She loved Vince very much," Portale said. "I don't think in her wildest dreams she would have thought her actions would have caused his death."

Initially, Graswald played the part of a grieving fiance, speaking to media about his final moments before her arrest.

"I saw him struggling a bit, he was figuring out how to paddle the waves," she said at the time.

Graswald told prosecutors she was uncomfortable with sexual demands for Viafore. When asked by investigators "did you remove the (kayak) plug so he would drown?" she replied, "I guess I did."

The murder trial was set to start in three weeks. After the deal in court, the Orange County prosecutor released a statement saying the plea agreement was entered after "extensive consultation with the victim's family."

CBS2's Magdalena Doris knocked on the door of the Viafore's Poughkeepsie home, without answer.

Graswald is now set to be sentenced in November. Portale said with the time she's already been in custody, she would likely be out by late December.

Hoovler said the guilty plea will make Graswald, who has legal permanent U.S. residency, liable to be deported. Portale said if the federal government filed to have her deported, there would be a court proceeding to contest it.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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