Lawyer for Woman Charged with Killing Fiancé During Kayak Trip Says There Is 'No Medical Evidence' to Substantiate Autopsy's Homicide Ruling

Vincent Viafore drowned during a kayaking outing with fiancé Angelika Graswald, who is now accused of his murder

Photo: Courtesy Angelika Graswald

An attorney for the woman accused of drowning her fiancée during a Hudson River kayaking trip in April tells PEOPLE a medical examiner has ruled Vincent Viafore’s death a homicide – but contends the finding is not backed up by facts.

“There was no medical evidence to indicate anything other than drowning,” says Richard Portale, an attorney for Angelika Graswald.

On Thursday, The New York Times reported it received a copy of Viafore’s long-awaited autopsy report, which ruled the death a homicide due to “kayak drain plug intentionally removed by other.”

Portale confirmed the ruling to PEOPLE, but says that the determination by the Orange County, New York, Medical Examiner’s Office is based on speculation, and inaccurate information the New York State Police provided to the ME’s office.

“Rather than conduct her own investigation, I think she [Orange County Medical Examiner Jennifer L. Roman] listened to the N.Y. State Police and created this,” he says. “She made this finding that the drain plug was intentionally removed by something the police told her.”

“I don’t think she discovered that under a microscope,” he also says. “There is no medical evidence, nothing. I don’t think it’s appropriate or proper.”

The medical examiner’s office referred questions to the Orange County executive’s office. The only comment provided by a spokesman for that office defended the ME’s inclusion of the missing drain plug in the report.

Medical examiners in Orange County have based their manner of death findings on evidence extrinsic of the body for years. It has been accepted by this County and the state,” Rodriguez says in a statement emailed to PEOPLE, without providing a copy of the report.

Portale declined PEOPLE’s request for a copy of the report and the DA’s office stated they could not comment due to ethical rules governing pre-trial publicity.

Viafore, 46, was kayaking without a life jacket in 46-degree rough waters when he capsized on April 19. Kayaking experts have told PEOPLE it was a dangerous day to be boating.

Graswald, 35, was indicted on murder charges in May. She has maintained her innocence in three jailhouse interviews with PEOPLE, and pled not guilty during her late May arraignment.

Portale has told PEOPLE that the drain plug was removed by Viafore and not Graswald. Kayaking experts tell PEOPLE several mistakes were made on that chilly mid-April day, increasing the danger of Viafore and Graswald’s outing on the Hudson.

Portale says the toxicology results show Viafore’s blood alcohol level was 0.066 percent – a fact backed up by the Times. These findings are consistent with what Graswald has told Portale – that she and Viafore drank beer while spending time on Bannerman Island in the Hudson River before heading back to the mainland.

According to the Times, the autopsy showed that other than evidence of drowning, Viafore’s only injuries are a two-inch abrasion on the left torso and bruises on the lower chest and arm, also on the left side. Portale speculates the injuries could have happened after his death.

“Clearly it was something that must have happened post-mortem,” he says. “He was floating around the Hudson and was bumping into things. It’s not relevant to the cause or manner of death.”

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