Illustrations: Hokyoung Kim

The Evidence Against Her

When Nikki Addimando shot her abusive partner, she thought she had enough proof it was self-defense. Why did the prosecution only see a cold-blooded killer?

This feature was reported in partnership with Type Investigations. It contains graphic descriptions of sexual assault, rape, and domestic violence which may be disturbing to some readers.

In the years before Nicole “Nikki” Addimando stood trial for second-degree murder, she was a stay-at-home mom, her days filled with preschool drop-offs and singalongs. “A crafty, Pinteresty mom,” said one friend. “The proudest mama on the planet,” said another. In the fall of 2017, Nikki and her two small children, Ben and Faye, were living with Christopher Grover, Nikki’s boyfriend of nine years and the kids’ dad. The family rented a three-bedroom basement apartment on the east side of Poughkeepsie in upstate New York. Nikki, then 28, had worked as a preschool teacher, but when she was pregnant with Ben in 2012, the couple decided she would leave her job to raise him — and, two years later, Faye. With money tight, Nikki found free activities for the kids throughout the Hudson Valley, a stretch of intermittently tony and depressed suburbs: apple-picking, corn-maze-walking, roller-skating.

Nikki skimmed five feet and 110 pounds and wore her curly black hair ironed long and straight. Chris, 30, was only a few inches taller, notable for his bald head and small but muscular frame; he spent his days at a gymnastics studio, where he was a head coach, bringing in the family’s main income. They often struggled on Chris’ wages. On the worst days, Nikki borrowed cash from the kids’ savings to buy essentials, replacing the money later. At night, she sewed baby booties that she sold online for $28 a pair.

Chris was well-liked by the young girls he coached. “An all-around nice guy,” his boss told me. “A diligent father who prioritized his family,” a former gymnast wrote. In his free time, he enjoyed playing video games, watching anime, and practicing tae kwon do. He’d learned to make amateur movies in…