Salvatore Anello, the man charged in the death of 18-month-old granddaughter Chloe Wiegand, says that he’s going to plead guilty to negligent homicide in a Puerto Rico court.
“I took a plea deal today to try to help end part of this nightmare for my family, if possible,” he said in a statement obtained by NBC News. Michael Winkleman, an attorney for the family, said that the defendant changed his plea in return for a sentence that avoids jail time, and he will be able to serve probation in his home state of Indiana. Sentencing is pending. Prosecutor Ivette Nieves denied that this was a plea deal.
“He simply plead guilty,” she said.
Authorities blame Anello for Chloe’s death, but the Wiegand family blames the Royal Caribbean cruise line. In an ongoing lawsuit, plaintiffs say that it’s the company’s fault.
The incident reportedly happened when Anello put Chloe on a railing by a window at a children’s play area. He believed there was glass. He stood her against it. Standing Chloe against glass was something he often did during the girl’s big brother’s hockey games. But that window in the cruise ship was actually open. Chloe fell 11 stories to her death.
“We obviously blame them for not having a safer situation on the 11th floor of that cruise ship,” mother Kimberly Wiegand told TODAY in a July 2019 report. “There are a million things that could’ve been done to make that safer. I know my mom was asking people, ‘Why on earth is there a window open on the 11th floor without a screen or anything?'”
She said that the cruise line’s response was that they needed to ventilate the space.
“Well, to that I would say, ‘Get a fan. Come up with some other mechanism to make your guests comfortable, rather than creating a tremendous safety hazard that cost our child her life,” she said.
“We are deeply saddened by this incident, and our hearts go out to the family,” the cruise line said in a statement at the time. “We have assisted the authorities in San Juan with their inquiries, and they are the appropriate people to address further questions.”
Royal Caribbean has been fighting the lawsuit.
Matt Clibanoff contributed to this report.
[Screengrab via NBC News]