Grandfather to plead guilty in toddler’s cruise ship death

The Associated Press

South Bend, Ind. – An Indiana man who was holding his granddaughter before she fell from a cruise ship window and plunged to her death in Puerto Rico said he has agreed to a plea deal “to help end part of this nightmare.”

Salvatore Anello filed documents Monday in a Puerto Rico court to change his plea to guilty to a charge of negligent homicide in the death of 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand last July, family attorney Michael Winkleman told NBC News and the Indianapolis Star. He said Anello won’t face jail or prison time and will serve his probation in Indiana.

This May 11, 2006 file photo shows the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship docked in Bayonne, N.J. An Indiana man charged with negligent homicide in his granddaughter's fatal plunge from a cruise ship docked in Puerto Rico insists that he didn't realize an 11th-floor window was open before the 18-month-old fell to her death in July. Salvatore Anello of Valparaiso tells "CBS This Morning" that Chloe Wiegand fell after he lifted her to a window on the Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas so she could bang on the glass like she did at hockey games.

“I took a plea deal today to try to help end part of this nightmare for my family, if possible,” Anello, of South Bend, Indiana, said in a statement released by Winkleman. “The support they continue to give me has been beyond overwhelming and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for them.”

Royal Caribbean Cruises has said that surveillance video shows that Anello leaned out an 11th-floor window in a children’s play area on the ship for about eight seconds before he lifted his granddaughter to the window. Investigators say the girl slipped from Anello’s hands and plummeted to her death.

The girl’s family, though, claims in a lawsuit filed in January against the cruise line that it would have been “physically impossible” for Anello to lean out of that window.

Winkleman said the deal “is in the best interests of the family so that they can close this horrible chapter and turn their focus to mourning Chloe.”