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Grandfather pleads guilty to the death of the cruise ship in Puerto Rico


The grandfather of an 18-month-old girl who fell to her death last year after falling from the window of a cruise ship in Puerto Rico has pleaded guilty of negligent murder.

Salvatore & # 39; Sam & # 39; Anello, of Valparaiso, Indiana, admitted the charges Thursday after initially pleading not guilty last October.

The 51-year-old was charged with the death of granddaughter Chloe Wiegand, who died after falling 150 feet from a docked Royal Caribbean cruise ship in July 2019.

Anello had been holding the little girl to an open window on the 11th deck of the Freedom of the Seas ship when she slipped out of his grasp and fell to her death.

Salvatore Anello (pictured in court in February) pleaded guilty to negligent murder Thursday

Chloe Wiegand fell to her death from the 11th deck of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship after her grandfather held her to an open window in July 2019

Chloe Wiegand

Chloe Wiegand fell to her death from the 11th deck of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship after her grandfather held her to an open window in July 2019

Chloe fell overboard and died instantly when she landed 150 feet below Pan American Pier 2

Chloe fell overboard and died instantly when she landed 150 feet below Pan American Pier 2

He announced his decision to change his plea earlier this year in hopes of moving on from the tragedy after reaching an agreement with prosecutors that did not include jail time.

"I signed a plea contract today to try to end part of this nightmare for my family if I can," he said in a February statement.

Puerto Rico prosecutor Laura Hernández said Thursday that Anello would be sentenced on December 10th. "We found justice for Chloe," she said.

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

In a statement made to DailyMail.com in February, Winkleman said Anello and the family made the "incredibly difficult" decision to change his plea because the "agreement does not involve any prison sentence or admission of facts."

& # 39; It was decided that the plea deal is in the best interests of the family so that they can close this terrible chapter and focus on the grief for Chloe and the fight for the safety of cruise passengers by raising awareness Sharpen the need for all major airlines to adhere to the window Fall prevention laws to protect children from falling out of windows, "he said.

The cruise ship window had been left open and Chloe fell out and fell to her death

The cruise ship window had been left open and Chloe fell out and fell to her death

The grandfather repeatedly said that he did not know that the window (circled) was open

Anello said he picked Chloe up so she could knock on the glass like she did at her brother's hockey games (pictured)

The grandfather repeatedly said that he did not know that the window (circled) was open

Careless murder carries a three-year prison term under the Puerto Rican Criminal Code. However, the prosecution is likely to recommend a trial period that can be completed in his Indiana home.

Anello has repeatedly said that he did not know that the window in the children's play area was open and that he picked Chloe up so she could knock on the glass like her brother's hockey games.

"I haven't been drinking and she hasn't dangled out the window," he said in a previous statement.

He also said he was color blind and may not have noticed that the tinted window was open.

Sources close to Chloe's parents Alan and Kimberly Wiegand say the admission of guilt will not change their belief that Royal Caribbean was ultimately responsible for their deaths.

The girl's parents sued Royal Caribbean last year, accusing the company of negligence.

Anello, an IT worker, had consistently protested his innocence over the death of 18-month-old Chloe before accepting a plea deal earlier this year

Anello, an IT staff member, had consistently protested his innocence over the death of 18-month-old Chloe before accepting a plea deal earlier this year

Sources close to Chloe's parents Alan and Kimberly Wiegand (pictured in an interview last year) say the admission of guilt will not change their belief that Royal Caribbean is ultimately responsible for their deaths

Sources close to Chloe's parents Alan and Kimberly Wiegand (pictured in an interview last year) say the admission of guilt will not change their belief that Royal Caribbean is ultimately responsible for their deaths

Royal Caribbean has tried unsuccessfully to ditch the case, showing harrowing footage of Chloe's final moments to argue that Anello stuck his head through the window and "undoubtedly" knew it was open.

The company denies violating industry safety standards and insists that he only had to rely on his "basic senses" to realize he was putting his beloved granddaughter at risk.

The family said it would have been physically impossible for Anello to rest like this.

Royal Caribbean did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Chloe and her grandfather were planning a seven-day Caribbean cruise with their parents, older brother, fraternal grandparents, and Anello's wife, Patricia, when the tragedy unfolded.

Your vacation was supposed to include the sun-kissed sights of San Juan, St. Maarten, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia, and Barbados, but it ended in horror before the $ 800 million ship even set sail.

The haunting camera footage of the incident on board shows Anello alone on deck with Chloe, who leads her grandfather from the paddling pool in the H20 zone to the glass sides of the ship.

He picks up the toddler and places it on a wooden handrail, but suddenly she falls forward and disappears from view.

"All I know is that I was trying to reach the glass, and I know we are leaning over to try to get her to reach the glass. At that point, she slipped," Anello said in a previous interview with CBS .

“Chloe's gone, worst of all, so whatever I am, you know? There is nothing worse they can do to me than what has already happened. & # 39;

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