The Indiana man whose 18-month-old granddaughter Chloe Wiegand fell to her death from the window of a cruise ship in Puerto Rico last year will plead guilty to negligent homicide. Salvatore Anello initially pleaded not guilty, but he was offered a deal that spares him from going to jail and from having to admit to the facts of the case as alleged by prosecutors.
Anello is expected to get probation and serve it in Indiana. In a statement to “CBS This Morning,” he said, “I took a plea deal to help end part of this nightmare for my family, if possible.”
Anello was on vacation with his family last July aboard Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas when he dropped Chloe out of a window of the ship while it was docked in San Juan.
Surveillance video, obtained by CBS News, showed the moments before Chloe fell from the window. She is seen running over to a bank of windows and Anello is following her. He leans over a railing to look out and then reaches down, picks Chloe up, and holds her over the railing. She then falls 150 feet.
“At the moment the accident happened, it was as if this wall of protective glass disappeared,” Anello said in his statement. “I was in complete disbelief … I wasn’t drinking and I wasn’t dangling her out of a window. I just wanted to knock on the glass with her as we did together so many times before … I was placed in charge of keeping my beautiful granddaughter safe and I failed.”
Pictures from the past show Anello at a hockey game, holding Chloe up to the glass, which the family attorney said is proof that he had in fact done that before.
In an interview with CBS News correspondent David Begnaud last year, Anello said nothing prosecutors do to him could be worse than the guilt he already lives with.
“It’s inconsequential because of what has already happened is so horrible,” he said, but he added that he didn’t want to put his family through him going to jail “because they don’t want that.”
Anello is requesting a new court date in Puerto Rico, where he’ll go before a judge who will have to sign off on the plea deal.
Attorney Michael Winkleman, who represents Chloe’s parents, said the trial has been difficult for the family. They had previously begged prosecutors not to charge Anello.
“With the criminal chapter closed, they can really grieve as a family,” Winkleman said. “And really then set their sights on … continuing to raise awareness about the dangers that took Chloe’s life, so that this doesn’t happen again to another child.
Chloe’s parents have filed a civil lawsuit against Royal Caribbean, alleging the cruise ship was not compliant with industry safety standards. The company denies that claim.
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