For grandfather charged in girl's cruise ship death, surveillance video likely key evidence

Court hearing in girl's cruise ship death

Last Updated Nov 20, 2019 11:48 AM EST

A court hearing was held in Puerto Rico Wednesday for the grandfather of a toddler who died after falling from a cruise ship window. Salvatore Anello is charged with negligent homicide in the death of 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand.

The little girl fell more than 100 feet back in July when Anello lifted her up to an open window while the Royal Caribbean ship was docked in San Juan. The family's attorney said Anello thought the window was closed.

Anello stood before a judge Wednesday with an attorney and translator present. No evidence was released. Anello's next court appearance will be on December 17, at which time the court will pick a trial date.

Chloe's family is shocked Puerto Rican prosecutors are holding Anello responsible, their attorney told CBS News correspondent David Begnaud reports. 

"The family's really not doing well. I think they're really devastated by the fact that these charges have been filed and that this case continues to go forward," said Michael Winkleman, the family's attorney. "They're shocked because they think it's groundless. … They certainly didn't want charges to be filed."
 
Winkleman, who is not representing Anello in the criminal case, said despite the family wishes, prosecutors are pushing forward. The accident was caught on surveillance camera, and although Winkleman thinks the grandfather is not criminally responsible, the prosecutors may be seeing something else, he said.
 
"You have to assume that it shows something that really led the Puerto Rican authorities to believe there was criminal offense, so clearly there's something in that video," he said. The video has not been released.

Chloe's family is pointing the finger squarely at Royal Caribbean, accusing the cruise liner of creating a fatal safety hazard. And they're planning to sue.
 
Winkleman said the little girl's grandfather has already been punished enough. "I think this was a tragic mistake. It will haunt him forever and there's just no reason for charges to have been filed," he said.

Royal Caribbean issued a short statement saying because they expect a lawsuit to be filed, they have no comment. They believe what happened was a tragic accident.