[CW: This article discusses imprisonment, domestic violence, sexual violence, murder
On Feb. 11, Dutchess County Judge Edward T. McLoughlin sentenced Nicole Addimando to 19 years to life in prison for criminal possession of a weapon and the murder of Christopher Grover, her live-in partner with whom she had two children. The decision came after a 12-person jury unanimously rejected her assertion of self-defense on April 12, 2019.
At approximately 2:16 a.m., on Sept. 28, 2017, Poughkeepsie police officer Richard Sisilli was en route to an unrelated incident when he found Addimando’s car paused before a green light on Taft Avenue. After he blew his air horn, she exited the car, her two children asleep in the backseat, and approached him about a fight she had with her partner (Poughkeepsie Journal, “Nicole Addimando defense aims to preclude statements to police,” 11.13.2018).
Addimando confessed to shooting Grover in self-defense to the police officer, citing years’ worth of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. She explained how Child Protection Services (CPS) had come to their apartment 24 hours earlier, after an anonymous call reported bruises on Addimando. She later testified that, as they lay on their sofa after the visit from CPS, Grover threatened to kill her if she left him. When he fell asleep, Addimando arose from the couch and unsuccessfully attempted to leave with the children. Grover produced a gun from between the couch cushions and pointed it at her. Addimando kneed him and grabbed the gun. The police later found Grover dead with a bullet lodged in his left temple (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “Addimando tells jury about shooting: ‘I just lunged and pulled the trigger,’” 03.28.2019).
Addimando, a graduate of Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Hyde Park, first met Grover in 2008 when they worked together as coaches at Mr. Todd’s Gymnastics (The New Yorker, “When Can a Woman Who Kills Her Abuser Claim Self-Defense?” 12.20.2019). After developing a close friendship, their relationship grew into a romantic one. Addimando even shared her history of childhood sexual abuse. The two stayed together after Addimando left Mr. Todd’s to obtain a teaching certificate and work as a student teacher in New Paltz. In 2011, she found employment at Vassar College.
Director of Wimpfheimer Julie Riess ’82 recalled first meeting Addimando after she came to work at the nursery school: “I met her [around 2011] because she was a primary caregiver for her nephew Noah, who was going to start Wimpfheimer as a two year old … I had met her a little bit and I really wanted her to apply for a job here. I heard amazing things and when Noah started she had the time to take on a teaching position.”
Riess continued, “We loved and adored her … We work with tons of college students. In doing that, you develop a sense of who is a good fit, who has got a lot of promise and who is a good match for kids and for being in a young children’s environment. Nikki was all those things.”
Riess first took notice of bruises and cuts on Addimando’s person in Oct. 2011. They had the card swipe access installed to provide Addimando an escape from the abuse: “We started trying to give her a safe place to go to. Because we had the card swipes, she could get here 24/7. I left her the little room next to my office and a sleeping bag for her, as well as a first aid kit. I don’t know if she ever used the overnight piece or not, but we did patch her up. Everything from bruises and cuts to cracked ribs. … Things got a little better, and then they got worse again.”
After becoming pregnant in 2012, Addimando left Wimpfheimer in the fall and gave birth to a son, Ben, in December. Various sources confirm that the abuse worsened when Ben was several weeks old, when Grover first forced himself on her. Riess stayed in touch with Addimando and described one incident that occurred during Addimando’s second pregnancy: “He took her head and he slammed it into the edge of the kitchen counter … Then he took a spoon and heated it and burned her all over her body.”
Another source who spoke on the condition of anonymity concurred with Riess’ assessment: “For two and a half years, I never saw her without a bruise. I saw her covering black eyes with sunglasses. I saw her with scarves covering red marks around her neck. I saw her twice with dislocated shoulders … She discussed with me the brutal rape that he did to her night after night after night, how she had to remain silent to not wake up her children.”
In cases of self-defense, the burden of proof falls upon the prosecution to disprove the defendant’s justification beyond reasonable doubt. Riess described suppression of evidence as the prosecution’s major strategy. Likewise, Putnam County Assistant District Attorney and chief prosecutor Chana Krauss rejected Addimando’s claims that Grover abused her. She instead cited an employee of Addimando’s mother who sexually assaulted her and a police officer with whom Addimando became involved after attempting to report Grover as possible abusers (The New Yorker). These individuals provided grounds for the court to question whether Grover could be proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, to be Addimando’s abuser.
Krauss asserted that Addimando was a manipulator who had emotionally abused Grover and killed him while in his sleep. She used texts from Addimando to Grover, such as “I have an asshole man child for a partner. That’s my disorder.” Furthermore, Krauss called to the stand Stuart Kirschner, a forensic psychologist who testified that videos depicting Grover and Adimando in rape scenes, which Grover posted to PornHub, were consensual (The New Yorker).
The day of the sentencing, friends
Addimando’s defense team saw a glimmer of hope in May 2019, after Governor Cuomo signed into law the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA, NYS S. 1077). Specifically, the DVSJA amended existing laws to provide alternate sentences for victims of domestic violence (DV). It defines DV Alternative Sentence eligibility with respect to crimes committed due to coercion by an abuser; against the defendant’s abuser; or at the behest (at the request or order) of the defendant’s abuser (Pro Se Practice, “Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act: Resentencing Options,” 09.04.2019). However, Judge McLoughlin denied applying the DVSJA, stating to the prosecution and defense teams that Grover could not be verified as Addimando’s abuser. He also asserted that Addimando had various opportunities to leave the home she shared with Grover.
Though Grover’s family could not be contacted for a comment, several relatives and close friends shared their thoughts on social media. Multiple individuals expressed relief and appreciation for what they see as justice having been served on Grover’s behalf.
The People vs. Nicole Addimando dragged on for nearly two and a half years, during which her family paid thousands of dollars in legal fees. Clifton and Michelle Horton, Addimando’s sister, established the Addimando Defense Committee: “Our goal is to support her, to help raise money for her defense, and support her in telling her truth.”
The Defense Committee plans to continue advocating for Addimando and assist in finding attorneys to appeal the decision. The DVSJA will not only be central to the appeal, but The People vs. Nicole Addimando will establish its application in New York State case law.