A Pine Ridge mother was sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison Monday for involving her toddler son in a drunken fight with her boyfriend. The boy died three weeks later, and his birth father stands accused of murder.
Emmy E. Rouillard, 24, pleaded guilty to felony child abuse and neglect.
Her boyfriend, Robert Red Shirt, was sentenced on similar charges in March to four years in prison for kicking the face of Rouillard’s 20-month-old child while the couple was arguing on March 15. The boy was taken to two hospitals where doctors found bruises, swelling and abrasions on his body, according to court records.
At Monday's sentencing, the prosecutor said Rouillard started the chain of events by slapping Red Shirt while holding her son. She refused to give up the toddler even after a bystander tried to take him away. And she used the baby as a human shield when it became apparent that Red Shirt was going to kick her.
The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Megan Poppen, said the abuse started with the home life Rouillard created. Poppen said Rouillard had been arrested 16 times in four years on alcohol-related incidents. Rouillard and Red Shirt shared a house with 16 people in Pine Ridge that did not have electricity, running water or heating.
Xavier Buckley, a neighbor, testified he saw Red Shirt smoke marijuana with boys 4 to 5 years old and said drugs were being sold in the house.
“Trash was never taken out, the house was never cleaned,” he said. “When the door was opened, foul odor would come from the house,” which Buckley described as the mixed smell of rotten food, marijuana, cigarettes, soiled diapers and after-party atmosphere.
He said Red Shirt and Rouillard fought frequently, including Red Shirt hitting Rouillard with a fist in front of children.
Rouillard’s mother countered that she was a good daughter and mother.
“I love my daughter … just like she loved her son,” Lisa Good Weasel told Judge Jeffrey Viken. “She’s had enough … I just want her home.”
Rouillard’s attorney, Nathaniel Nelson, asked the judge for a lenient sentence, saying his client was a devoted mother who had made bad choices in men.
“She just wanted to find love and find somebody to be with and to be happy with.”
Rouillard told Viken she realizes she has made wrong decisions with drinking and relationships. Between sobs, Rouillard said she had learned to think first before acting and that she wanted to find a steady job.
Rouillard, who has a daughter with Red Shirt, said the assault experienced by her deceased son often plays in her head.
“This child’s death is not on your back, it’s not yours to carry,” said Viken, who next year is scheduled to preside over the murder trial of the boy’s father, James Shangreaux.
But Viken added that Rouillard and Red Shirt were “equally at fault” in hurting the boy that day in March.
Besides the prison sentence and three years’ supervised release, Rouillard was ordered to join Red Shirt in paying $5,000 to the Department of Social Services.