Indiana toddler cruise death: Family alleges 'ulterior motive' of authorities is to help ship operator after grandfather charged
The 18-month-old child, Chloe Wiegand, died in July after falling 150 feet from an open window on the Freedom of the Seas ship onto a concrete dock in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The grieving family of the grandfather, who has been charged for the Indiana toddler's death after she fell 11 stories through an open window on a cruise ship, has alleged that the Puerto Rican authorities have "ulterior motives."
The family continues to stand by the grandfather, Salvatore 'Sam' Anello, despite him being charged with negligent homicide by Puerto Rico police in the case.
The 18-month-old child, Chloe Wiegand, died in July after falling 150 feet from an open window on the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship onto a concrete dock in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Seconds before the tragedy, the toddler's grandfather, Salvatore 'Sam' Anello, had held her to a "wall of windows" so that she could bang on the glass, something that the toddler reportedly loved to do. However, the window Anello had held the child up to had been slid open, causing the child to fall onto the deck from the 11th floor.
Anello, who was released on $80,000 bond on Monday, reportedly faces three years in prison if he's found guilty of the charge. The 76-year-old is expected to appear in court on November 20.
The family's lawyer Michael Winkleman, while talking to the Daily Mail, questioned the integrity of Puerto Rican prosecutors, suggesting that they may have an "ulterior motive" in apprehending Anello, instead of putting the blame on the world's biggest cruise line operator.
"It's hard to not think that a lot of this is either for show or for some sort of ulterior motive," Winkleman told the outlet. "I don't have any evidence to support this, it is just my working theory. But what surprised me is that there was an effort to try to have this case go forward in an effort to try to help Royal Caribbean."
The toddler's family, mother Kimberly, 36, and South Bend, Indiana police officer father Alan, 41, meanwhile, have vowed to sue Royal Caribbean for "inexplicably" leaving a window open in a family play area.
The attorney said the family's civil action suit efforts have been hindered as both the Puerto Rican police and Royal Caribbean have refused to hand them the CCTV footage which captured the moment of Chloe's fall, citing "pending investigation." However, reports state that Anello's criminal defense attorneys in San Juan may get the footage soon considering they are entitled to receive copies of the evidence in the case.
"They [the Puerto Rican authorities] are using the term negligent. That means we know he didn't mean to do it. But apparently they think the negligence rises to a criminal level," Winkleman told the outlet. "It's my understanding that nothing has really changed in terms of the family's viewpoint of Sam's position, that it was an accident and that he thought this was a wall of windows. He didn't realize the window was open. He puts her up on a railing thinking that there was a window there and either let's go or loses grip of her for a moment and she's gone."