Missing child believed starved to death, official says


Boston Globe, November 28, 1999
By Yvonne Abraham

One of two children missing from an Attleboro religious community and feared dead is believed to have been starved to death, because a member of the community had a vision in which God told the mother to switch the child from solid food to breast milk.

Samuel Robidoux was 10 months old when he disappeared. Police believe his body, along with that of a stillborn cousin, Jeremiah Corneau, was buried in Baxter State Park, in central Maine, in September.

''We're looking into whether that child was somehow starved as a result of being taken off food and put on breast milk only,'' Bristol Assistant District Attorney John Letourneau said yesterday.

''Information leads us to believe that some sort of vision was received by members of the sect, which they interpreted to mean the child should be taken off food and put on breast milk,'' he said. The mother, Letourneau said, seems to have struggled with the sight of her child suffering.

The information comes from a journal seized from the sect, and referred to in a search-warrant affidavit made public Friday, according to the Attleboro Sun-Chronicle.

As Samuel's condition worsened, his mother, Karen Robidoux, became more tormented, the journal stated. But other members of the sect said Satan had been using the sight of her son to try to get to his mother, according to the newspaper report.

Police were first alerted Nov. 10 to the disappearance of the two children by David Mingo, an estranged member of the community. Mingo is involved in a custody dispute with his wife who is still a member of the sect, said Letourneau.

About a dozen adults and as many children lived in the community, in a duplex in Attleboro, and on a farm in Seekonk.

Members of the sect refused to cooperate with the investigation. David Corneau told police his son had been stillborn, but invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to say where the infant's body is buried.

Jacques Robidoux, Samuel's father, refused to say what happened to his son, and has been in custody since. He has twice refused a court-appointed lawyer, Letourneau said. His wife has also refused to cooperate, also invoking the Fifth Amendment.

When the investigation began, 11 children, all under the age of 10, were removed from the community and placed in the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services. One of the children told police Jeremiah had been born ''without a breath,'' and that Samuel ''wasn't feeding,'' and had died in the spring. The bodies had been trucked to central Maine, the child said, and buried by four male members of the sect on a camping trip in the park.

Police have been unable to narrow the search, and the children's bodies have not been found.

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