Cult leader wanted TV deal

Boston Herald/March 20, 2002
By Dave Wedge

The leader of an Attleboro cult charged with starving a baby to death tried to peddle the tale of alleged infanticide to a national TV news show in exchange for the network paying the accused killer mom's bail, the Herald has learned.

Roland Robidoux, the leader of The Body religious sect, made the pitch to Dateline NBC producer Allison Orr, who was trying to get an interview with Robidoux's daughter-in-law, Karen Robidoux. Orr wrote a letter to Karen Robidoux in prison but got no response until Roland Robidoux called her and arranged a face-to-face meeting late last year.

During the sit-down, Roland Robidoux told Orr that she would get an exclusive interview with his daughter-in-law if the show ponied up $100,000 to spring her from the Dartmouth jail.

``In response to my request for an interview with Karen, Roland contacted me. He asked me if we would pay her bail in exchange for the interview,'' Orr said yesterday. ``It's our policy not to pay for interviews, so we declined.''

Karen Robidoux's lawyer, Sam Sutter, said he was unaware of the cult's alleged attempt to make a deal with Dateline.

``I'll have no comment until I speak with my client,'' Sutter said.

Karen Robidoux and her husband, Jacques, are in jail awaiting trial on charges they starved their 10-month-old son, Samuel, to death in 1999 to fulfill a bizarre religious prophecy. Dateline ran an hour-long show on the cult's saga last year and is continuing to follow the case. The Robidouxes are slated for trial in June, along with Samuel's aunt, Michelle Mingo, who is accused of fabricating a ``vision from God'' that ordered the group not to feed Samuel solid food.

According to sources, the embattled sect has fallen into financial crisis since the probe into Samuel's disappearance began. They have had problems paying legal tabs and other bills as their chimney sweep and contracting businesses have struggled. Sutter, who was hired as a private attorney to represent Karen Robidoux, is seeking to stay on the case as a public defender because the group can't pay his fees, sources said.

The cult, which has consistently stonewalled investigators and refused to speak with the news media, rejects mainstream society, including the medical, banking and court systems. But the turmoil caused by Karen Robidoux's incarceration apparently prompted the group to break its own rules and reach out for help, a source said.

"They were really desperate to get Karen out,'' the source said. ``Karen's had more problems in prison than the rest. It's been really emotional for her.''

Also locked up are members David and Rebecca Corneau, who are jailed for refusing to provide proof that their latest child died in a miscarriage. An Attleboro judge, suspecting the child may be alive and hidden, has ordered them to remain in jail until they say where the remains are buried.

The Corneaus fell under intense scrutiny after their infant son, Jeremiah, died during a home birth in 1999 and was secretly buried alongside Samuel in Maine's Baxter State Park.

The couple, who have been granted immunity in the case, have had four children taken from them by the Department of Social Services.

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