Massachusetts Sect Couple Released

The Associated Press/June 18, 2002
By Denise Lavoie

Attleboro, Mass. -- Two members of a religious sect who were jailed for refusing to say what happened to their latest child were freed Tuesday after four months behind bars.

"I don't think this court is going to be more successful than it has been with further incarceration,'' Juvenile Court Judge Kenneth Nasif said. He noted that the case is now before a grand jury.

Rebecca and David Corneau had refused for months to even acknowledge Rebecca had been pregnant, then claimed she had a late-term miscarriage. But state social workers have said that the Corneaus may be hiding the baby and that the child could be in danger.

The judge had ordered the Corneaus to produce a baby or say where the remains were buried.

The Corneaus are members of a religious sect called The Body that rejects modern medicine. Another sect member, Jacques Robidoux, was convicted last week of murder for slowly starving his infant son Samuel to death in what he said was an effort to carry out the will of God.

Nasif released the Corneaus over the objections of Social Services Department attorney Paula Carton Rossen, who urged the judge to keep the pressure on the couple in the hope that ``if there is a live baby, that child should never befall a similar fate to Samuel Robidoux.''

The Corneaus' attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., reiterated that there has never been a live child. He said both Corneaus testified before a grand jury last week and answered all questions except where the remains were buried, asserting their constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Another Corneau baby, Jeremiah, died during a home birth in 1999. The Corneaus said the baby was stillborn. Investigators said the baby's lungs were not properly cleared as is routinely done in hospital births.

The Corneaus were not charged in that death, but they lost custody of their four other children.

The sect has been under fire from the state since 1999, when authorities learned that both Jeremiah and Samuel were missing. After receiving immunity from prosecution, David Corneau led investigators to the bodies, buried in the wilderness in Maine.

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