To one he was a role model. To another, a sexual predator.
Christopher Salamone, a 35-year-old teacher at Santa Fe High School, was charged with six counts of unlawful sexual activity with a 16-year-old girl by the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday evening, according to ACSO spokesperson Art Forgey.
The sheriff’s office made a Facebook post on Tuesday evening revealing they received information about sexual contact between a teacher and a student May 29. ACSO Spokesperson Art Forgey said the tip came from the victim.
Salamone’s relationship with the 16-year-old victim became sexual in mid-October, ACSO Spokesperson Art Forgey told The Alligator. The victim had classes with Salamone her sophomore and junior years. She told detectives she and Salamone went to dinner for her birthday as their first date. The third time they met up, Salamone told the victim he loved her, Forgey said.
The victim told detectives the first time they had sex was in a wooded area off a trail at San Felasco, Forgey said. She also said she had sex with Salamone at the Staybridge Inn. Hotel records show he booked a room there six times between early November and January, according to Forgey.
The victim told police she remembers Salamone asking her if their relationship could continue if he didn’t have a wife and child. She also told detectives that he told her he was considering getting a divorce when they went hiking at San Hammock Preserve State Park.
When her school transitioned to a remote learning due to COVID-19, the victim would go to Starbucks every week and meet Salamone at a trail where they would have sex. She showed law enforcement officials where they had sex in the woods, Forgey said.
The victim told detectives she went to his northwest Gainesville home once, Forgey said. He performed oral sex on her, and she was able to describe the room as well as a painting and a bathroom.
During a recorded phone call with a detective present, she asked Salamone his favorite memory of their relationship, Forgey said. He told her he was concerned the call was a setup and asked her to promise he wasn’t being recorded.
When she asked if their relationship was more than a physical attraction, he told her “it was real,” Forgey said.
Salamone ended the relationship on May 25, telling the victim he wanted to reconcile with his wife, Forgey said. After feeling emotionally distressed, the victim told her father about the relationship. Her father then informed law enforcement.
Christopher Salamone and his ex-wife Jade Salamone filed for divorce on April 14, according to county court records. The divorce was finalized on June 4. The Alligator couldn’t reach Jade Salamone for comment as of Thursday.
The sheriff’s office will continue investigating the case to determine if there are more victims, Forgey said.
Jackie Johnson, a spokesperson for Alachua County Public Schools, said Salamone was hired in 2012 and teaches social studies. He had no previous disciplinary issues, she said.
Salamone will not be teaching this summer and the district has placed him on administrative leave pending the results of his case, according to an email sent to families by Santa Fe High School Principal Elizabeth Clear.
Faith Collins said she was shocked to learn that her son’s role model is a suspected predator.
The first thought that ran through her head was “Holy crap, is this real?”
Collins’ son is a rising senior at Santa Fe High School and had Salamone as a Human Geography teacher. She said her son always spoke highly of Salamone, describing him as relatable and down to earth. He would let students lead class discussions and give them the freedom to express themselves.
Her son would return to their home talking about how much he enjoyed the class.
“You don’t get that from 16-year-old boys all the time,” Collins said.
Salamone was arrested by investigators from the Special Victims Unit Tuesday.
He pleaded not guilty at his first court appearance on Wednesday morning, according to court records. He is being held at Levy County Jail with his bond increased to $1.2 million.
With a daughter going into high school, Collins is glad the case is being investigated.
“I’ve always tried to have conversations with my kids about body autonomy and boundaries,” she said. “This reinforces the importance of that. It could happen to anyone.”