A New York woman is on trial for the murder of her longtime boyfriend, a 30-year-old Poughkeepsie gymnastics coach and the father of her two kids—but her supporters claim she fatally shot the victim in self-defense.
As the rebuttal goes, Nicole Addimando feared for her life, after suffering years of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Christopher Grover.
The 30-year-old mother’s story has rallied domestic violence advocates in the Hudson Valley to raise more than $74,000 for her legal defense. An event for Addimando in January was headlined by famed Vagina Monologues playwright Eve Ensler.
Now her trial is entering its third week in a Dutchess County courtroom, where prosecutors have claimed the 2017 killing was no act of self-defense. They accused Addimando—who faces charges including second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter—of fabricating a tale about an abusive partner to justify a cold-blooded murder.
Addimando’s supporters have appeared in court wearing purple—the color associated with domestic-violence awareness—while Grover’s friends and family wore T-shirts with the words “Justice for Chris” in red letters. Last week, Grover’s supporters stood outside the courthouse with balloons on what would have been his 32nd birthday.
On Monday, a Hyde Park police officer and a forensic nurse examiner both testified on different instances where Addimando alleged abuse by Grover.
According to the Poughkeepsie Journal, one Hyde Park detective said he had cops ready to arrest Grover in November 2015, when Addimando claimed Grover posted explicit images of her to the pornography site PornHub. But officers couldn’t bust Grover, because his girlfriend was unwilling to sign a deposition detailing the allegations.
Meanwhile, a forensic nurse examiner testified that she documented Addimando’s injuries during one September 2014 visit. Addimando had a bruise on her face and on the back of her neck, a bite mark on her shoulder, red marks on her private areas, which could have been caused by burns, rashes or friction, the nurse said. Addimando didn’t request a sexual assault forensic exam during the visit, the nurse testified.
Grover was “a great father” and coach, but “he was different behind closed doors,” Addimando testified in her defense last week, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal.
“The same things everyone in this courtroom misses about him, I fell in love with,” Addimando told jurors, adding that she stayed because she hoped he’d change back into the man she first met.
Grover’s death in September 2017—and Addimando’s arrest soon after—shocked the community about 85 miles north of New York City. One friend of Addimando’s previously told the Journal that she was “the most loving mother in the world.”
“This is not like her,” the friend said. “This is not her. She is the nicest person.”
On Facebook, colleagues and friends shared tributes to Grover, who was described as a “loving father” and gifted gymnastics coach. “Traveling to competitions with Chris was always an adventure... a minute wouldn’t go by without Chris making me laugh like crazy or tell an out of this world story,” one pal wrote after Grover’s death.
Marisa and Todd Hart, the owners of Mr. Todd’s Gymnastics, where Addimando worked until 2011, wrote that Grover was as excited as “a kid in the candy store” about starting the next season with their gymnasts.
“Chris and Nikki and have both touched many lives at our gym,” the Harts said in their post. “I am friends with Nikki as well and just don’t know what life brought to her but our thoughts are with her and her family as well.”
Prosecutors say Addimando shot Grover at close range as he slept on a couch in the apartment they shared with their two young children on Sept. 27 or Sept. 28, 2017. “This isn’t self-defense,” special prosecutor Chana Krauss said during opening arguments, according to the Journal, adding that Addimando’s “rehearsed story of abuse and bizarre narration of events... falls apart in the details.”
On Sept. 27, 2017, an anonymous complaint about bruises on Addimando led to Child Protective Services visiting the couple’s home.
Marisa Hart testified last month that Grover called to say he’d be late for work that day because of a meeting with CPS, the Journal reported. “He said, ‘You are never going to believe this... they were there for me.’ He said they had showed up and they had questioned him about hurting Nikki,” Marisa Hart told jurors.
Hart recalled Grover saying he had nothing to hide and that he encouraged CPS workers to review his phone and his laptop. When Addimando and Hart spoke on the phone later that day, Addimando claimed she bruises easily and gave Hart a heads up that CPS might be calling her. Addimando warned Hart not to let the CPS investigators know they spoke, Hart testified.
According to Hart’s testimony, Grover said that “if anybody is being abused in this relationship, it’s me, mentally.”
Addimando would later tell police that Grover demanded that she fix the situation, so she spent the day calling people listed as CPS witnesses and asking them to tell the agency everything was OK with their family.
When Grover arrived home from work, Addimando told cops, he showed her how to load his gun. That night, the couple also had sex, though “it wasn’t the usual violent sex,” she noted in an early police interview.
Addimando told cops she waited for Grover to fall asleep on the couch so she could leave but that when she got up, Grover grabbed the gun from between the cushions. “He pulled me back down I jumped up and I kneed him a little bit... he dropped it (the gun)... I held it to him,” Addimando said in the police interview.
“You won’t do it,” Grover said, according to Addimando.
On the witness stand last week, Addimando said Grover took the gun out of a box in their bedroom closet and “told me he could kill me in my sleep.” The night Grover died, he discussed what would happen if he shot her in different parts of her head, Addimando testified.
When the prosecutor asked whether she called or texted anybody for help, Addimando said no.
Addimando said she and Grover laid on the couch that night, and Grover wrapped his arms around her. She testified that she was waiting for him to fall asleep so she could leave with the kids, but he woke when she stood up.
Grover pulled the gun out of the couch and pointed it at her, Addimando told jurors. She said she kneed him between his legs and the weapon dropped to the floor. The mom testified that she then dived over the sofa to retrieve the gun, the Journal reported.
“You beat him to it?” Krauss asked, to which Addimando replied, “I did. Thank God.”
Addimando testified that Grover laughed at her and told her she wouldn’t shoot him. Instead, Grover allegedly warned, he’d shoot her, then himself. “I just lunged and pulled the trigger,” Addimando claimed in court, adding that the gun “made contact with him when I lunged forward.”
After the shooting, Addimando flagged down a patrol officer around 2:16 a.m. on Sept. 28, 2017, leading cops to her Town of Poughkeepsie apartment.
The officer, Richard Sisilli, was heading to another call when he stopped behind Addimando’s red car, the Poughkeepsie Journal reported. When the light turned green and Addimando’s vehicle didn’t budge, Sisilli blew an air horn and the mother got out of her vehicle.
Addimando, who was visibly upset, and the cop had a two-hour conversation in which she said “that she tried to leave and the gun went off,” Sisilli said during a previous hearing in the case. Sisilli added that he didn’t initially consider her a suspect, but a possible victim of domestic violence. Her kids were asleep in their car seats, Sisilli noted.
In her recent testimony, Addimando said Grover began sexually abusing her weeks after her son was born. Grover “started to force me to have sex,” she said, while answering questions from one of her attorneys. “He said I was a good mom, but he has needs, too.”
According to the Journal, jurors were shown photos of Addimando’s burn marks, bruises and a bite mark—injuries she claims were caused by Grover. They also saw sexually explicit photos that Addimando claims Grover took and uploaded to porn websites.
“He bit me. He stepped on my face once. He choked me multiple times. He used to put me in headlocks,” Addimando testified, adding that Grover watched porn constantly after their daughter was born in 2015.
“He tried to recreate what he was watching. He bound me, he tied me up (with fabric or twine)… he would have sex with me and laugh at me and tell me to get out of the restraints myself. Sometimes he left me tied up for hours,” Addimando told jurors.
Meanwhile, a forensic scientist testified that blood was found in Addimando’s underwear, but that state police do not have tests to determine if the blood is menstrual or from an injury, the Journal reported.
Still, prosecutors have also presented data from Grover’s and Addimando’s phones which they suggest reveals Addimando’s plans to kill her boyfriend.
Someone conducted searches on Grover’s phone hours before cops found his body. According to the Journal, those queries included: What would happen if someone was asleep and someone shot them in the head? Will they wake up and die, or die instantly? Where do you have to get shot in the head to die instantly?
Other searches were: Part of the brain to shoot in a suicide? How do they determine if a person was asleep when shot? Will police know if she was asleep when I shot her?
Addimando was behind those searches, prosecutors say, and some of those were auto-corrected to read “she” instead of “he.” For their part, Addimando’s legal team says there’s no evidence she conducted the research.
Some texts arguing about household responsibilities, according to authorities, were deleted from both Addimando’s and Grover’s phones. A text Addimando sent another person, in which she mentioned killing Grover, was also deleted from her phone: “I haven’t found out a way to kill him without being caught, so I’m still here.”
Addimando testified that text was a joke and the conversation continued with “all the reasons I needed to stay and why I couldn’t leave.”
Krauss said Addimando “wore the pants” in her relationship and, according to texts sent before his death, would call Grover stupid, say he had a mental disorder and refer to him as a “man child,” the Journal reported.
“Maybe you’ll be happier if I go, if I make you so unhappy,” Grover replied in one text to Addimando, according to prosecutors.
But Addimando’s attorney, John Ingrassia, told jurors during opening arguments that Grover targeted his girlfriend with “severe and extreme sexual violence.” Alleged instances of violence include Grover burning Addimando with a heated metal kitchen utensil while she was pregnant with their second child, the Journal reported.
“This is a story of a young woman... making a decision to protect her life, to live,” Ingrassia said.