PUERTO RICO – Salvatore Anello, the Indiana grandfather who pleaded guilty in 2020 to a charge of negligent homicide in connection with the death of his toddler granddaughter, was sentenced by Puerto Rican authorities on Monday to three years of probation.
On July 7, 2019, Anello was docked in Puerto Rico on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship with his family while on vacation; at that particular time, he was watching his one year-old granddaughter, Chloe Wiegand. At one point Anello picked up Chloe and held her over a railing and up to what he said he believed to be a closed window so she could bang on the glass. In reality, it was an open window, and at that moment Wiegand tragically slipped from Anello’s hands and plummeted over 100 feet to the dock below.
Anello has stated many times that he only held Chloe up to the window because he thought it was closed, and was stunned when he realized – far too late – that it wasn’t.
“At the moment the accident happened, it was as if this wall of protective glass disappeared,” he said in a CBS News interview. “I was in complete disbelief. I wasn’t drinking and I wasn’t dangling her out of a window. I just wanted to knock on the glass with her as we did together so many times before. I was placed in charge of keeping my beautiful granddaughter safe and I failed.”
The Wiegand family did not press charges against Anello, but he was nonetheless charged with negligent homicide by Puerto Rican persecutors, who maintained that Anello “negligently held a minor out an 11th floor window,” leading to her death. Anello pleaded guilty in 2020, saying he did so to avoid having to admit any facts or suffer a more serious sentence; he also said he wanted his family to be able to concentrate on legal action they were taking against the cruise line.
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Wiegand’s family has filed a civil lawsuit against Royal Caribbean, claiming that they did not “provide reasonably safe children entertainment areas, including reasonably safe windows.” Attorney Michael Winkelman, who is representing the family in the suit, said that Anello had no way of knowing that the window in question was open and that the ship did not meet safety regulations.
“He thought it was all glass,” he said. “There’s a wood railing right there. He puts her up on there, thinks she’s going to bang on the glass and it’s going to be great. She goes to bang on the glass and the next thing you know, she’s gone.”
Royal Caribbean has denied Winkelman’s allegations, and has maintained that, based on surveillance video footage of the incident, Anello knew that the window was completely open when he picked up his granddaughter and held her up to it. In the video, Anello can be seen leaning over the railing himself for 14 seconds before picking Chloe up and holding her up to the window.
Anello has since moved to Michigan; officials say he will be allowed to serve his three years probation there.