More kids will die: Cult mom breaks her silence

Boston Herald/March 4, 2004
By Dave Wedge

Breaking her silence for the first time, former Attleboro cult mom Karen Robidoux yesterday said she was unable to save her starving son's life and now fears for her relatives still in the high-control sect - and any future children.

"There's been no repentance, and they're just going to continue. The group will just continue in their cycle," the waifish 28-year-old said during an interview with the Herald.

Asked if she thinks more children could die a horrific death like the 1999 starvation of her 11-month-old son, Samuel, Robidoux replied: "Absolutely. If not worse."

Since being acquitted of murdering her son and released from jail last month, Robidoux has been living quietly in Lakeville's Meadow Haven group home for former cult members, trying to piece together the shattered pieces of a life gone tragically awry.

Dressed casually for her job at a local bed and breakfast, the once-accused baby killer was friendly, frank and confident - a far cry from the stoic cult mother who defiantly strolled courthouse halls as authorities tried to find her dead son five years ago.

"I'm not a crazy woman. I'm not a hardcore, cold mother," she said. "If I had the control, there's no way this would have been allowed at all. There's just no way."

The fifth of seven children of Roger and Vivian Daneau, Robidoux dropped out of Attleboro High School in 10th grade and had two children by age 15. Shortly after her family joined The Body, she married cult leader Roland Robidoux's son, Jacques, and had three children with him.

Robidoux, who turns 29 in September, recalled how the group's strict teachings grew increasingly bizarre over the years, culminating with a deadly prophecy.

The tragic downturn began when Robidoux's sister-in-law, Michelle Mingo, told the group God demanded she switch Samuel from table food back to nursing or risk miscarriage.

"When (Mingo) said that to me, it was like, `Oh my God, God's going to take my child,' " she said. "So I just never knew if I was going to miscarry. I wasn't going to take the risk."

Samuel slowly starved to death over 51 days as Karen Robidoux grew weak and stopped lactating. His remains were buried in Maine.

She said she never thought Samuel was going to die and claims she couldn't flee because she was paralyzed by her "distorted" beliefs and her husband's physical intimidation.

"I knew he would stop me," she said, adding that her husband never left her alone with the dying toddler. "I do hold Jacques responsible. He had control. He didn't put his family before the group."

Jacques Robidoux is serving life for the boy's murder while Karen Robidoux was acquitted of second-degree murder. She was convicted of assault but was released after having served 2 1/2 years in jail. Mingo, who pleaded guilty to accessory charges, was released from jail last month and lives with the group in Attleboro.

Sitting in a living room at Meadow Haven, Karen Robidoux's face went flush and tears welled up in her eyes as she recalled helplessly watching her son starve to death.

"I knew he was sick. I knew he was suffering and that ripped me up inside. But nobody would help me. Nobody would help either one of us," she said.

She lost her four other children in the wake of the murder probe, but despite her acquittal, she said she doesn't plan to re-enter their lives unless they seek her out.

"I just don't want to tear up their world again," she said.

While still "spiritual," she now shuns religion and said she's filing for divorce. She dreams of moving away, perhaps studying to become a social worker, and hopes to someday remarry and have a family.

But, she said, "I don't think I could ever have true peace because there's a hole in my heart that's very big, and I don't know if it'll ever get filled."

"I'm extremely angry. I just feel so betrayed, abandoned," she said.

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