Lawyer: mother charged with son's death brainwashed

Milford Daily News/October 12, 2002

Attleboro, Mass. -- A religious sect member charged with allowing her son to starve to death was powerless to stop her son's slow death because of the group's sway over her, according to her lawyer. But a prosecutor scoffed at the claim from Karen Robidoux's lawyer, Joseph Krowski, and a mind-control expert that Robidoux was brainwashed by the group, saying that members still regularly visit her in jail.

Robidoux, 27, goes to trial in January for a second-degree murder charge. Prosecutors claim that Robidoux believed she was following a religious prophecy made by another member of the sect when she allegedly starved her son, Samuel.

Krowski said the control and influence sect members wielded over Karen Robidoux caused her to lose her judgment, and that she was powerless to halt the starvation of 10-month-old Samuel.

Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Walter Shea assailed the explanation of Robidoux's behavior.

"It is, frankly, transparent," he told the Sun Chronicle of Attleboro.

Steven Hassan, a Cambridge cult counselor and mind-control expert, will meet with Robidoux next week. Hassan, author and founder of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, has counseled other Attleboro sect members after they left the group.

"She has apparently woken up from the trance that she has been living under for so many years," Hassan told WPRI-TV, Channel 12, in Providence. "And she is very angry, and she's very, very devastated."

Robidoux still communicates with sect members, such as her father-in-law and sect leader Roland Robidoux, said Shea, who won a first-degree murder conviction against Robidoux's husband, Jacques, who was automatically sentenced to an automatic life sentence without possibility of parole.

"They come and visit her (in jail) once a week," Shea said.

Robidoux has been held at the Dartmouth House of Correction on bail since her November 2000 indictment. If convicted, she faces life in prison with possibility of parole after 15 years.

Jacques Robidoux, 29, who testified that he was following God's instructions and thought a miracle would save the boy as solid food was withheld for 51 days, was a leader of The Body, which rejects modern medicine, government and science. Samuel died April 26, 1999, three days shy of his first birthday.

Prosecutors say Jacques Robidoux's sister, Michelle Mingo, who was also in the sect, concocted the prophecy that God had told her that Karen Robidoux needed to overcome her vanity and feed her child only her own breast milk.

Mingo, who is charged as being an accessory to assault and battery on a child, is also awaiting trial. Both Mingo and Karen Robidoux have pleaded innocent.

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