The grandfather accused of dropping Indiana toddler Chloe Wiegand from a cruise ship window is to plead guilty to causing her death.
Salvatore ‘Sam’ Anello is to admit to negligent homicide just days after telling a court in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that he wanted a trial.
The IT worker has consistently protested his innocence over 18-month-old Chloe’s fatal plunge from the 11th deck of the Freedom of the Seas as it docked there last July.
But Michael Winkleman, a civil attorney representing the Wiegand family here in the US, confirmed Anello’s abrupt u-turn in a statement to DailyMail.com
‘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,’ he said.
‘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.’
Chloe Wiegand fell to her death from the 11th deck of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship after her grandfather held her up to an open window
Salvatore ‘Sam’ Anello is to admit to negligent homicide over the death of toddler Chloe Wiegand
Anello has lodged his plea with the court according to news reports in Puerto Rico, although DailyMail.com understands he will still have to appear before a judge to give it in person before sentencing.
Negligent homicide can be punished with a three-year prison sentence under the Puerto Rican criminal code however prosecutors will likely recommend a period of probation that can be completed in his native Indiana.
Puerto Rico’s Attorney General Dennise N. Longo Quiñones said in a statement: ‘The Puerto Rico Department of Justice has diligently prosecuted the charges against Salvatore Anello in order to bring justice to Chloe’s unfortunate death.
‘The defendant filed a motion yesterday afternoon expressing his intent to plead guilty and asking for a hearing date where the court may accept his change of plea.
‘Anello’s decision to so proceed is wholly within his discretion and will become binding only upon his appearing before the court to voluntarily plead guilty.’
The IT worker has consistently protested his innocence over 18-month-old Chloe’s death
Sources close to Chloe’s parents Alan and Kimberly Wiegand say the guilty plea will not change their belief that Royal Caribbean is ultimately responsible for her death.
The grieving couple from South Bend, Indiana are suing the cruise operator in a separate civil lawsuit, arguing there were no signs or notices to warn Anello that the ‘wall of glass’ he held Chloe up against contained windows that could be slid open.
When the grandpa lifted the little girl up to let her bang on the glass as she loved to do at her brother’s ice hockey games, Chloe tumbled overboard and died instantly as she landed 150ft below on the Pan American Pier 2.
Despite the windows having handles and a blue-green tint, the suit says it was harder for Anello to distinguish between a glass pane and thin air because he is color blind.
Police officer Alan, 41, and his attorney wife Kimberly, 37, could claim ‘unlimited’ damages for pain and mental suffering if their suit, filed in Miami federal court, succeeds.
However they say their sole motivation is to force Royal Caribbean to make their windows safer on the Freedom of the Seas so Chloe’s horror plunge is never repeated.
Sources close to Chloe’s parents Alan and Kimberly Wiegand (pictured)say the guilty plea will not change their belief that Royal Caribbean is ultimately responsible for her death
Royal Caribbean has tried unsuccessfully to have the case thrown out, presenting harrowing video footage of Chloe’s last moments to argue that Anello poked his head through the window and ‘unquestionably’ knew it was open.
The company denies breaching industry safety standards, insisting Anello would only have had to rely on his ‘basic senses’ to realize he was endangering his beloved granddaughter.
Angelic Chloe and her granddad were about to embark on a seven-night Caribbean cruise with her parents, older brother, fraternal grandparents and Anello’s wife Patricia, when the tragedy unfolded.
The window on the cruise ship had been left open, and Chloe tumbled out and fell to her death
Chloe tumbled overboard and died instantly as she landed 150ft below on the Pan American Pier 2
Their vacation was supposed to take in the sun-drenched sights of San Juan, St Maarten, St Kitts, Antigua, St Lucia and Barbados but it ended in horror before the $800m vessel had even set sail.
Haunting on-board camera footage of the incident shows Anello alone on deck with Chloe, who leads her grandfather away from the H20 zone splash pool towards the glass sides of the ship.
He lifts the toddler up and sits her down on a wooden handrail but suddenly she tumbles forwards and disappears from view.
‘All I know is I was trying to reach the glass and I know that we leaned over to try to have her reach the glass, at that point she slipped,’ Anello said in an interview with CBS. ‘Chloe being gone is the worst thing ever so I’m like, whatever, you know. There’s nothing worse that they could do to me than what’s already happened.’