An Attleboro cult mom whose stillborn child was buried alongside his allegedly murdered cousin in Maine two years ago may have given birth again - and now authorities are worried about the baby's safety.
"Let's just hope they're not in a van heading up the Maine Turnpike," one source close to the probe said yesterday of "The Body" religious sect.
Rebecca Corneau, 33, appeared pregnant at recent court appearances but when she was in court last week, she looked as though she was no longer expecting, courthouse sources said. As a result, Bristol County District Attorney Paul F. Walsh Jr. - who last year locked up Corneau while she gave birth - filed a child neglect petition yesterday that has sparked a Department of Social Services probe into Corneau's alleged pregnancy.
"It appeared Rebecca Corneau was pregnant. As of last week, she didn't appear pregnant anymore," DSS spokeswoman Carol Yelverton said.
If Corneau has given birth, it would be her sixth time, including her stillborn son, Jeremiah, who was secretly buried in Maine in the fall of 1999 with his infant cousin, Samuel Robidoux. All of Corneau's other children have been taken by DSS and placed with relatives outside the cult.
Prosecutors say 10-month-old Samuel was starved to death by cult leader Jacques Robidoux and his wife, Karen, after the boy's aunt, Michelle Mingo, concocted a twisted "vision from God" that demanded the child be put on an almond milk-only diet. The Robidouxes face murder charges while Mingo is charged as an accessory. A March trial is expected.
Corneau, who has not been charged in connection with the case, was forced to deliver her last child in a prison hospital because prosecutors feared for the child's safety. The court ruling touched off a firestorm of controversy and criticism from civil rights and women's groups.
At a court hearing last week, Corneau and her lawyer refused to answer prosecutors' questions about her pregnancy, sources said.
"This is based on the history of the deaths of two children in the home," Yelverton said. "DSS will now gather information to ascertain whether or not a baby has been born to Rebecca Corneau."
Yelverton added that the agency will "do whatever we can to make sure that if a baby was born, that that baby is safe."
"We'll take this one step at a time. We just want to talk with this family," she said.
Members of the reclusive Attleboro-based sect have repeatedly stonewalled investigators and refused to answer questions in court. A source close to the case said that if the group stonewalls DSS investigators, officials could seek a search warrant for the house and have Corneau examined by doctors.
"It's in the hands of DSS now," the source said. "Given the history of the case, hopefully they'll take it seriously and report to the court if they run into a brick wall."