Mom, boyfriend charged after SC police say 2 kids tortured with hot sauce, peppers

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Robert Saladaga, Sabrina Emerick, charged with child abuse in South Carolina

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – A South Carolina woman and her boyfriend face multiple charges related to the abuse of the woman’s two small children, starting in 2017.

According to Greenville Police Department officials, Robert Earl Kailiala Saladaga, 37, and Sabrina Irene Emerick, 25, were both charged with unlawful neglect of a child and two counts of cruelty to children (torture, deprivation).

Police said Saladaga was also charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.

Lt. Jason Rampey, with the Criminal Investigations Division at the Greenville Police Department, said the accusations are unconscionable.

“It’s difficult, especially dealing with children, when it’s time to conduct interviews and trying to rely upon information they’re providing but we take it seriously,” Rampey said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference.

According to the release, investigators worked with Greenville County School personnel, the South Carolina Department of Social Services, the Julie Valentine Center and the 13th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, which documented numerous instances of abuse involving Emerick’s two children — ages 5 and 7.

“Something that was said or witnessed at school alerted the staff and contacted DSS who, in turn, contacted the police department,” Rampey said.

The abuse allegations include several occasions where Saladaga would allegedly hold a pillow over one of the children’s face, causing the child to not be able to breathe. The child was reportedly 5 years old at the time.

Police said Saladaga rubbed a hot pepper on the child as punishment for urinating on the couch while sleeping. They said he also rubbed hot sauce all over the child’s face, eyes and mouth, causing him to vomit.

Saladaga is also accused of hitting the child all over his body, making the child take hot and cold showers, and shooting the child in the foot with a BB gun.

“Each of these abuses were forms of discipline for misbehaving at school or wetting the couch while sleeping,” Rampey said.

According to a court affidavit, the 7-year-old victim told a DSS worker during their investigation into the possible abuse that those punishments were for whenever he got in trouble in school.

The victim also told DSS that Saladaga would hit him on the arms, smack him on the legs and kick him in the legs as punishment.

The 5-year-old child told a DSS worker that Saladaga would put gloves on and then rub hot sauce all over his face, eyes and mouth, which would make him vomit. The child said he would also be forced to take hot or cold showers whenever he got in trouble.

Detectives learned that Emerick was reportedly aware of the alleged abuse and “allowed her children to be placed at unreasonable risk of harm, affecting the children’s life and safety at the hands of Saladaga.”

The incidents, which police said had been going on since at least September of 2017, reportedly occurred at an apartment on Pelham Road.

“Heinous crimes against children are some of the most difficult cases we investigate,” Lt. Rampey said. “The horrific stories of abuse endured by these children are sickening and reprehensible. As such, the children have been removed from this abusive environment for their safety and well-being.”

The conditions of Saladaga’s bond require him to wear an electronic monitoring device and have no contact with the children.

Emerick’s bond allows her to only have supervised visitation.

The two children are in the care of other family members.

A third child also living at the apartment, who police said was not abused, was also removed from the home and placed with other family members.

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