Salvatore Anello, an Indiana man who dropped his granddaughter through an open window on the 11th floor of a cruise ship to her death, pleaded guilty on Thursday and will avoid prison time, The Indianapolis Star reported.
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, in July of 2019, Anello and his family, including his 18-month-old granddaughter, Chloe Wigand, were on board the Royal Caribbean vessel, Freedom of the Seas. While the ship was docked at San Juan’s Pan American II port in Puerto Rico, Anello held the young girl through an open window on the 11th floor. He lost his grip on her and she fell over 100 feet to her death.
“[The grandfather], whom it would appear was playing with the little girl, lifted her out of the open window and lost his grip,” said Elmer Roman, of Puerto Rico’s Department of Public Security, at the time.
In October of 2019, Puerto Rican authorities charged Anello with negligent homicide.
In February, attorney Michael Winkleman announced that his client, who had originally pleaded not guilty, would change his plea to guilty in a deal that would allow him to serve probation rather than prison time. And on Thursday, in San Juan, Judge Gisela Alfonso Fernandez accepted his plea, according to a tweet from the territory’s Department of Justice.
Anello will avoid prison, and will be allowed to serve his probation in Indiana, according to his attorney.
The terms of his probation were not disclosed.
Anello had previously maintained that he did not know that the window through which he was holding his granddaughter was open.
To that end, the young girl’s family is pursuing a civil lawsuit against the cruise line, alleging Royal Caribbean was negligent in the safety features on the windows. Anello’s guilty plea and subsequent sentence will have no bearing on the civil suit, Winkleman said in a statement.
“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.”
Royal Caribbean has maintained that Anello’s actions were “reckless and irresponsible.”
Anello himself said that the fact that the cruise line has enacted safety measures on other ships, but not on the one from which Chloe fell, points to the fact that the carrier knew those protocols are necessary.