Northwest Indiana grandfather pleads guilty in cruise ship death of 1-year-old granddaughter

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Sal Anello and his dranddaughter Chloe are seen in a photo released by the Wiegand Family and distributed by CNN.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (NEXSTAR) — A grandfather accused in the fatal fall of his young granddaughter from an 11th-story window of a cruise ship docked in Puerto Rico last year has pleaded guilty to negligent homicide.

Salvatore Anello of Valparaiso, Indiana, earlier said he would drop a not-guilty plea to help end what he called “this nightmare” for his family.

Eighteen-month-old Chloe Wiegand slipped from his grasp and fell about 150 feet from an open window of Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Freedom of the Seas ship in July 2019.

Puerto Rico prosecutor Laura Hernández said Thursday that Anello would be sentenced Dec. 10.

“We have found justice for Chloe,” she said.

Anello’s attorney, Michael Winkleman, did not immediately return a message for comment.

Attorney for Chloe Wiegand’s family Maritime attorney Michael Winkleman at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman P.A. provide the following statement to Fox59:

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 by raising awareness about the need for all common carriers to adhere to window fall prevention laws designed to protect children from falling from windows.

The civil lawsuit against Royal Caribbean continues.  We are deep into the process of discovery in the Civil case having already taken several depositions and numerous upcoming depositions including the Captain of the ship.  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.  

Read the complete statement from Sam Anello made in February here, which attorneys said remains the same.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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