Grandfather Charged in Girl's Fatal Fall on Cruise Speaks Out: 'They Can't Do Anything Worse to Me'
Salvatore Anello is charged with negligent homicide in the July death of Chloe Wiegand
“They can’t do anything worse to me than has already happened,” Salvatore Anello told NBC.
The network reports Anello made a court appearance Wednesday in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he faces charges in connection with the death of Indiana 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand. The girl fell out a window more than 10 stories onto a concrete dock while in the children’s play area of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, which was docked in Puerto Rico.
Prosecutors allege Anello “negligently exposed the child to the abyss through a window on the 11th floor,” according to a statement from the Puerto Rican Department of Justice obtained by PEOPLE.
But Anello and Chloe’s family have always maintained the girl’s death was an accident and not a crime.
Family attorney Michael Winkleman, who is representing the family in a planned lawsuit against Royal Caribbean, told PEOPLE in October that Anello put Chloe up on a wood railing beside what he thought was a wall of closed windows, unaware that a sliding window was open. Winkleman said Chloe liked to bang on glass panels at her older brother’s hockey games, and when she went to bang on what appeared to be closed windows, she fell.
“They feel devastated and distraught. They stand 100 percent behind [Anello] and his version of events that he thought this was a wall of windows,” Winkleman said.
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“It’s pouring salt in their open wounds,” Winkleman said. “They’re in the beginning stages of a lengthy process that is grief. They were trying to put their lives back together, and you throw this into the mix and it puts them back to square one.”
Chloe’s parents, Alan and Kimberly Wiegand, spoke out in an interview with the Today show in July, defending Anello.
“He was extremely hysterical. The thing that he has repeatedly told us is, ‘I believed that there was glass,’” Kimberly said. “He will cry over and over and over. At no point ever — ever — has [he] ever put our kids in danger.”
“[Chloe] was his best friend,” Alan added.
It was unclear if Anello has entered a plea to the charges. His attorney did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.