Video of Toddler Falling From Cruise Ship Will Clear Grandpa of Charges, Lawyer Says

Salvatore Anello and Chloe
CBS This Morning/YouTube

Last month, authorities in Puerto Rico officially charged Salvatore Anello with manslaughter, after the tragic falling death of his granddaughter, Chloe Wiegand, in July. Anello had been aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship with his family at the time, which included 18-month-old Chloe and her parents, Alan and Kimberly, when she fell through an open window Anello believed was closed. In the three months since the incident, both Anello and the Wiegands have maintained his innocence, and believe any negligence was on the part of the cruise ship. And now, Anello's lawyer is hopeful that video footage of the incident will exonerate his client and reveal the truth of what happened that day.

  • Anello has always maintained that he believed there was a glass window in front of him, before he lifted Chloe up and placed her on the railing.

    According to her parents, who spoke with Today over the summer, Chloe was used to attending her older brother's hockey games and banging on the glass with excitement as she watched. The Indiana family says that this day was no different -- as the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship came to dock at a port in San Juan, her grandfather picked up an excited Chloe, who wanted to see outside, and positioned her on a railing that ran along a wall of glass-paneled windows in a children's play area.

    But as Chloe leaned forward to rest her weight on the glass, she instead fell through the open window and plunged more than 115 feet. She died instantly, when her body hit the concrete platform below.

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  • While speaking to Savannah Guthrie in late July, Chloe's mother Kimberly recalled the harrowing moments she learned her daughter was gone.

    "I didn't know that she went out a window,'' Kimberly shared at the time. "And I just kept saying, 'Take me to my baby. Where's my baby?' I didn't even notice a window. I ran over there, and I looked over, and it wasn't water down there, it was concrete. To lose our baby this way is just unfathomable."

    Witnesses later recalled hearing the mother let out a primal scream, which could be heard throughout the cruise deck.

    "This one mother just came and held me and embraced me and I'll never forget it," Wiegand told Guthrie. "She just said, 'God, watch over this family.' I just want to thank her. I don't know where she is or who she is."

  • Anello's lawyer believes strongly that video obtained from the deck will prove his client's story and clearly show he was not acting negligently.

    Initial reports accused the grandfather of "dangling" the toddler out of an open window, and the Associated Press reported that Anello told officers he "lost his grip" while holding Chloe outside the window. But Anello's lawyer, José G. Pérez Ortiz, refuted that information.

    "What I saw with the video, it's pretty consistent with what my client has told me," Ortiz told the IndyStar. "My client thought that the window was closed. Nothing in the video is inconsistent."

    As of now, the surveillance footage has not been released to the public.

  • But prosecutors in Puerto Rico don't agree with that version of events.

    "[Anello] negligently exposed the child to the abyss through a window on the 11th floor of the cruise ship," Puerto Rico Attorney General Dennise N. Longo Quiñones and other officials said in an October 28 news release.

    According to the IndyStar, negligent homicide is a misdemeanor charge in Puerto Rico, but it carries the same penalty as a fourth-degree felony. If convicted, Anello could face up to three years in prison. His next court appearance is December 17.