The New York kayak murder case has taken a new turn as suspect Angelika Griswald is now declaring her innocence. The 35-year-old Latvian woman claims that her perceived guilt is a combination of a coerced confession and a cultural misunderstanding…but is it true?
— 48 Hours (@48hours) September 14, 2015
Griswald told ABC News during an exclusive 20/20 sit down that she can’t believe that she’s a murder suspect. “I’m being accused of murder, which I’m not capable of doing,” said Angelika. She agreed to the interview because she wanted “her side of the story” out there; she also wanted a chance to “let people know that [she’s] innocent.”
The kayak murder case began when her fiance, 46-year-old Vince Viafore, went missing during their kayak trip in mid-April. His kayak overturned in the Hudson River, after which he disappeared under water. Two weeks later, CBS New York reports that she confessed to and was arrested for Viafore’s murder. It would be nearly a month after her arrest before her fiance’s body was found, confirming that he’d drowned.
New York law enforcement officials remain confident that it’s a case of cold-blooded murder, where Angelika Griswald seduced Vince Viafore and then killed him to gain access to his wealth. This is a narrative that the suspect has strongly argued against.
“I’m not a killer. I’m a good person.”
Griswald insists that she only confessed under extreme duress, after a 12-hour interrogation where she felt she would not be released until she “told police what they wanted to hear.” Police have stated that Angelika told them that she “wanted him dead.” However, she now says this confession was coerced after being asked the same series of questions over and over for hours.
” “I was exhausted. I was hungry. I was just out of it. What would you do? Like, they don’t give you a rulebook on what to do.”
According to the New York Daily News, Angelika Griswald somehow thought meeting the police would be akin to a “therapy session” where she could “open up” about her feelings about losing Vince. She didn’t believe that she was suspected in his death or that authorities sincerely believed she was out to get him.
There’s a potentially unfortunate aspect of the New York kayak murder case that has put her in the media and public crosshairs: Ethnocentrism. She believes that much of the police and public misconceptions of her behavior in the days after Viafore went missing (and months since his confirmed death) are based on how Americans deal with grief. Her friends — who spoke to ABC News on the condition of their real names not being used — have said that culturally, the women of Latvia are encouraged to be strong, to put on a “brave face.”
They claimed that privately, Angelika was very upset and emotional about Vince’s death.
“Knowing her and knowing myself and knowing the country where we were raised, they always teach us to be very strong and don’t bring out emotions to the other people. There was a time when she was putting his clothes on and sitting alone with candlelight and watching their pictures together and crying alone. She cries alone.”
Various factors could be at the heart of perceived guilt in this case. Griswald being a foreigner, classicism, the “Black Widow” trope, and perhaps police taking advantage of the suspect’s lack of understanding of how the American justice system works. All of these potential factors could give the kayak murder suspect’s defense team something to build on.
Of course, it could also be a case where an attractive woman used her youth and charms to lure a man to his death — every bit as open and shut as New York law officials wish us to believe. It’s important to remember that not everything that supposedly convinced the police of Angelika’s guilt came from a taped confession.
There’s also the matter of the kayak, which authorities examined carefully. They determined it was tampered with. The suspect also allegedly wrote in her diary (which was recovered by law enforcement officials during a search) that she’d sometimes wished Vince was dead because of pressure to give in to sexual demands she didn’t necessarily agree with.
— People magazine (@people) November 6, 2015
The New York kayak murder case is expected to go to trial in spring of 2016. Angelika Griswald was arrested and charged with murder on April 30. She’s currently in jail on a $9 million bond. ABC News reports that the suspect is scheduled to appear in court on November 25.
[Image Via Inside Edition/ABC News/YouTube]