Mother of starved child ordered back to state hospital for treatment

By Associated Press/July 23, 2003

Dedham -- A mother who allegedly watched her infant son starve to death because of her religious beliefs was ordered yesterday to return to a state hospital for treatment after a judge ruled that the woman was still incompetent to stand trial.

After reading expert testimony, Norfolk Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Donovan ruled that Karen Robidoux, a former member of a religious sect called 'The Body,' was still unable to stand trial on a second-degree murder charge for the death of her son, Samuel, according to Robidoux's attorney, Joseph Krowski.

"She's got a ways to go," Krowski said. "Right now, she's still pretty shaky, she's still pretty fragile, but she's getting to the point where she can submit to the ordeal of a trial."

Robidoux, who has been in custody since her November 2000 indictment, had been scheduled to go on trial on Jan. 6. But after a psychiatric evaluation at Taunton State Hospital, experts said she was too emotionally distraught to face trial. Yesterday, Donovan ordered her to return to the hospital for more treatment.

Krowski has said his client is not criminally responsible because she was brainwashed by fellow sect members, including her husband, Jacques Robidoux. He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in June 2002.

Prosecutor Walter Shea did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Jacques Robidoux, a leader of the tiny Attleboro-based sect, testified at his trial that he watched Samuel waste away over 51 days after his sister, Michelle Mingo, said she had a prophecy from God that the family should withhold solid food from the child.

Jacques Robidoux also testified that his wife wanted to feed the boy solid food, but he wouldn't permit it. Samuel died April 26, 1999, three days before his first birthday. His body was buried in Maine's Baxter State Park.

Bristol County prosecutors allege that Karen Robidoux knew what she was doing and should have helped her son. If convicted, she faces life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years.

Michelle Mingo is charged with being an accessory to assault and battery on a child. Prosecutors say she concocted the prophecy that God had told her Karen Robidoux needed to overcome her vanity and feed her child only her own breast milk.

Mingo is also awaiting trial. She and Karen Robidoux have both pleaded innocent.

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