Cult mother judged emotionally unfit for trial in son's death

Boston Herald/January 30, 2003
By Dave Wedge

An Attleboro cult mom accused of starving her son to death wails for hours in the fetal position and is so emotionally damaged that she is unfit to stand trial, a judge ruled yesterday.

"When she starts to be questioned about the facts surrounding her son's death, she'll start to cry softly, and then louder and then she'll sob uncontrollably,'' attorney Joseph Krowski said of Karen Robidoux. "She then goes into her room, curls up in a ball and will sob for hours.''

Taunton State Hospital psychiatrist Dr. Charlotte Denton testified yesterday in Dedham Superior Court that Robidoux, 27, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and is clinically depressed. Robidoux is charged with second-degree murder for the 1999 starvation death of her 1-year-old son, Samuel.

Denton testified Robidoux would be unable to maintain her composure during a trial and can't assist her attorney in her own defense.

"All of the graphic evidence that would go in is something she can't deal with,'' Krowski said, adding he has been unable to question her about the circumstances surrounding Samuel's demise.

Judge Elizabeth Donovan deemed Robidoux incompetent to stand trial and will review her condition in May. The case was supposed to go to trial earlier this month.

As part of yesterday's ruling, Robidoux will be put into an intense therapy program at the Taunton hospital. She also will continue to meet twice a week with cult deprogrammers.

Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Walter Shea called the decision "disappointing,'' but vowed to convict her just as he did her husband, Jacques.

"I think it's rather interesting that the woman who was able to do this vile thing to her child over a two-month period now can't deal with the fact that she did it,'' Shea said.

Prosecutors said the couple systematically denied the boy food for 51 days and then secretly buried his body in Maine. Jacques Robidoux is serving a life sentence for the killing. The boy's aunt, Michelle Mingo, is awaiting trial on accessory charges for allegedly launching the horrific starvation with a "vision from God'' that told the couple to stop feeding Samuel.

The three are members of a reclusive Attleboro religious group dubbed The Body that rejects modern medicine and mainstream institutions.

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