Angelika Graswald is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Vincent Viafore's death

By Diane Herbst
Updated May 29, 2015 02:00 PM
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Allyse Pulliam/Times Herald-Record/AP

Clad in an orange jumpsuit with her wrists shackled in front of her, a somber Angelika Graswald pleaded not guilty to murder charges Friday in an Orange County, New York, court.

Graswald’s attorney Richard Portale, who entered the plea, said that members of her defense team would be viewing the recently recovered body of Graswald’s fiancé, Vincent Viafore, at the Orange County Medical Examiner’s office for an autopsy on Friday.

“We’re going to see the remains today, and then we will make a determination as to if we want to conduct our own independent autopsy,” Portale said after the arraignment in Goshen, New York.

“We expect to see it was an accidental drowning, hypothermia and acute alcohol intoxication, but we don’t have it yet,” Portale said. “I think it was clear they were drinking, at least a couple beers.”

Prosecutors previously stated that Graswald pulled a plug out of Viafore’s kayak, which led to its capsizing in the frigid waters of the Hudson River on April 19.

Once Viafore was in the river, prosecutors said that 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 is $250,000 in life insurance policies, prosecutors said.

Graswald is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter based on written and oral statements the 35-year-old native of Latvia made to police, according to the indictment.

Portale has told PEOPLE the case against Graswald is based on her own statements and that the words could have easily been manipulated by investigators.

On Friday, Portale indicated that the two separate charges against Graswald show big holes in the prosecution’s case. “A person can’t have two different mind-sets when they commit the same act,” he said, “so I think it’s a signal.”

Graswald’s defense team is growing, with the addition of John Fleming, a private investigator and retired New York City homicide detective, and Jeffrey Chartier, a criminal defense attorney who successfully represented two Metropolitan Transportation Authority train engineers involved in fatal crashes; and forensic scientist Michael Archer.

When asked why he joined the case, Chartier tells PEOPLE: “I believe this girl’s innocent.”

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