Grandfather pleads guilty in toddler’s cruise ship death

FILE - This May 11, 2006 file photo shows the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship docked in Bayonne, N.J. On Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, Salvatore "Sam" Anello, an Indiana man who was holding his granddaughter before she fell from an open window of the cruise ship and plunged to her death in July 2019 in Puerto Rico, pleaded guilty to negligent homicide.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

After more than year of legal battles, Salvatore Anello, the man accused of dropping his 18-month-old granddaughter out of the window of a cruise ship last year, has changed his plea to guilty.

CBS News reported Anello, of Valparaiso, Indiana, pled guilty to negligent homicide on Thursday. In February, he said he would drop his not guilty plea.

ExploreGrandfather agrees to plead guilty to dropping toddler to her death aboard cruise ship

In July 2019, Anello was with his granddaughter, Chloe Wiegand, on the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas ship, which was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Prosecutors say he “negligently exposed the child to the abyss through a window on the 11th floor."

Anello and his family have maintained that what happened was an accident. They sued Royal Caribbean, accusing the company of negligence.

Royal Caribbean, seeking to dismiss the suit, said surveillance video shows Anello leaning out the window before he lifted Chloe out of the open window for 34 seconds before losing his grip. They said Anello knew the window was open because he leaned out of it.

Michael Winkleman, the family’s attorney, said the company’s motion to dismiss was “baseless and deceptive.”

ExploreCruise line: Video shows grandfather knew window open before dropping toddler

The Wiegand family said it would have been physically impossible for Anello to hang out of the window in the manner Royal Caribbean said.

That case is ongoing.

Anello will not serve jail time in agreeing to the plea deal. He will serve probation in his hometown.

“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.

Anello will be sentenced Dec. 10, Puerto Rico prosecutor Laura Hernández told The Associated Press.

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