The Indiana grandfather accused of fatally dropping his 18-month-old granddaughter from an 11th-floor cruise ship window pleaded guilty to negligent homicide.
Salvatore “Sam” Anello admitted blame in the July 2019 death of Chloe Wiegand after she fell roughly 150-feet from an open window as she slipped from his hands on a Royal Caribbean ship docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The 51-year-old grandpa said earlier this year that he planned to change his earlier not guilty plea to end “this nightmare” for his family.
His lawyer Michael Winkleman said that the plea would be made in exchange for a no-jail-time sentence. Anello — who is set to be sentenced on Dec. 10 — is expected to serve a term of probation from his South Bend, Indiana, home.
“We have found justice for Chloe,” Puerto Rico prosecutor Laura Hernández said.
“This decision was an incredibly difficult one for Sam and the family, but because the plea agreement includes no jail time and no admission of facts, it was decided the plea deal is in the best interests of the family so that they can close this horrible chapter and turn their focus to mourning Chloe and fighting for cruise passenger safety,” Winkleman said in a statement.
Anello has maintained that he didn’t realize the window was open when he raised Wiegand up inside a play area.
“I wasn’t drinking and I wasn’t dangling her out of a window,” he previously said.
The family filed a negligence lawsuit against the Royal Caribbean last year. That case is still ongoing.
“Why in the world did Royal Caribbean allow this window to be opened, without any warning, just steps from a children’s play area, 150 feet off the ground?” Winkleman said.
“Sadly, all of the discovery and evidence taken so far in the case confirms that this was a tragic, preventable accident and that there are absolutely no grounds to bring criminal charges against Sam Anello,” Winkleman’s statement continued.
But the cruise line has said that surveillance video showed Anello leaning out of the window before he lifted the tot for over 30 seconds. The family says Anello wouldn’t have been able to physically lean out that way.
Royal Caribbean didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
With Post wires