Opening arguments begin in murder trial of sect member

Providence Journal/January 22, 2004
By Denise Lavoie

Taunton, Mass. -- Prosecutors said Thursday that Karen Robidoux was a willing participant in the murder of her infant son, while her attorney countered that Robidoux was under the control of a religious sect when she and her husband starved the boy to death.

Jurors heard opening arguments Thursday in the trial of Robidoux, who is charged with second-degree murder for allegedly depriving Samuel Robidoux of food after a fellow sect member had a divine "vision." Samuel died in the spring of 1999, three days before his first birthday.

"From day one - day one - this woman, his mother, knew what was happening to her child, knew what was causing him to be ill, to be weak, to suffer, and at the conclusion of 51 days, to die," prosecutor Walter Shea said.

Defense attorney Joseph Krowski said Karen Robidoux was under the sway of other members of The Body sect, including her husband, Jacques. Indoctrinated into the group's strict beliefs as a teenager, and given few freedoms, she was unable to resist the edict, Krowski said.

"Jacques Robidoux was responsible for what happened," Krowski said. "He was the one who was in control."

Jacques Robidoux was convicted of first degree murder and is serving a life sentence.

A jury of nine men and seven women was seated Wednesday to try his wife, whose trial was delayed after a psychologist found her too emotionally distraught to stand trial. She received psychiatric treatment and a judge in September found her competent to stand trial.

After opening statements, prosecutors called their first witness, Dennis Mingo, a former sect member who left the group and later found Jacques Robidoux's diary, which proved to be a key piece of evidence for prosecutors.

Police on Wednesday arrested another key witness after he failed to show in court.

David Corneau, a member of The Body, was arrested at a gas station after a Taunton Superior Court judge issued a warrant for him.

It was Corneau who led police to a remote Maine grave site where they found the remains of the Robidoux boy and Corneau's own stillborn son, Jeremiah.

Corneau was never charged. He testified last year in the trial of Jacques Robidoux.

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