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Grandfather charged in toddler's cruise ship death will accept plea deal

The family's attorney says the move is in the best interest of the family and will allow them to close the difficult chapter.
Credit: WTHR Staff

An Indiana man accused of dropping his granddaughter from an 11th floor window of a cruise ship docked in Puerto Rico last year says he will accept a plea deal. 

Salvatore "Sam" Anello was charged with negligent homicide in the death of 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand. The death occurred in July 2019 as the girl from Granger, Indiana, vacationed with her family aboard the Freedom of the Seas of Royal Caribbean Cruises. Anello has said he did not know the window was open when he lifted Chloe to it so she could bang on the glass. 

Anello initially pleaded not guilty to the charge. He has maintained he believed the window was closed when he lifted Weigand up to the 11th story window to bang on the glass. Anello has also explained he is colorblind and could not see the difference between the tinted windows and the open window. 

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His attorney, Michael Winkleman, told NBC News and The Washington Post that he filed paperwork to change his plea to guilty. The plea deal would allow him to avoid jail time. 

“The Puerto Rico Department of Justice has diligently prosecuted the charges against Salvatore Anello in order to bring justice to Chloe’s unfortunate death,” Puerto Rico Attorney General Dennise Longo Quiñones told The Washington Post. “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."

Winkleman told NBC News the deal, which would allow Anello to serve his probation in his home state of Indiana, was "in the best interests of the family so that they can close this horrible chapter and turn their focus to mourning Chloe." 

Wiegand's parents sued Royal Caribbean in December for negligence. Winkleman said in a news conference the windows on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas ship weren't compliant with window fall prevention laws. He argued that if the family would have been on a different ship, Chloe would still be alive. 

"At a minimum there should have been some type of warning, or some type of decal," Winkleman said. "Just four simple words: 'Caution, these windows open' would've alerted Sam to this hidden danger. Chloe would still be here today."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.