A grandfather who was accused in the falling death of a toddler girl on a cruise ship last year pleaded guilty to negligent homicide charges, officials said on Thursday.
Salvatore Anello of Valparaiso, Indiana, earlier said that he would plead guilty to end “this nightmare” for his family, Nexstar reported. He initially pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Chloe Wiegand, an 18-month-old girl, slipped from his grasp and dropped about 150 feet to her death at the open window of the Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Freedom of the Seas in July 2019 as it was docked near San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico prosecutor Laura Hernandez told news outlets that Anello will be sentenced on Dec. 19.
Family attorney Michael Winkleman told media outlets that Anello, who is known as Sam, will receive no jail time. His probation will be served in Indiana.
“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,” he said to media outlets after the guilty plea was entered.
The family will continue to pursue a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean. They have previously questioned why a window was left open in a children’s play area on the ship.
“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,” Winkleman wrote.
Earlier this year, Royal Caribbean described the lawsuit as reckless.
“His actions, which no reasonable person could have foreseen, were reckless and irresponsible and the sole reason why Chloe is no longer with her parents,” the cruise line said, according to the Indianapolis Star.
“This is a case about an adult man, who, as surveillance footage unquestionably confirms: (1) walked up to a window he was aware was open; (2) leaned his upper body out the window for several seconds; (3) reached down and picked up Chloe; and (4) then held her by and out of the open window for thirty four seconds before he lost his grip and dropped Chloe out of the window,” Royal Caribbean said in its legal motion.
Royal Caribbean has not responded to a request for comment.