Cult mother mum as birth nears

Boston Herald, Saturday, October 7, 2000
By Dave Wedge

A pregnant Attleboro cultist hospitalized against her will is continuing to stonewall authorities, despite the fact her husband has hired a lawyer and is trying to work out a deal with prosecutors probing their last baby's death.

"She's still refusing to say anything," Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Gerald FitzGerald said of Rebecca Corneau.

Corneau, 32, is expected to give birth any day now to a baby that prosecutors say will immediately be put into Department of Social Services custody. A member of an Attleboro religious sect under investigation for the deaths of two young boys, Corneau was placed in Roxbury's Neil J. Houston House against her will last month because of prosecutors' fears that her unborn child would be harmed.

Thursday, she was back before Attleboro Juvenile Court Judge Kenneth Nasif for an update on her condition, but once again, she balked at giving out any information about her pregnancy.

"She refused to say how far along she is," FitzGerald said. Officials estimate, however, that the baby could be born within days. Her husband, David Corneau, also 32, was among eight cultists behind bars for refusing to cooperate with the criminal probe, but was released two weeks ago after hiring a lawyer and invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

He is now trying to work out an immunity agreement with prosecutors, who want him to help them find the bodies of the Corneaus' infant son, Jeremiah, and his 10-month-old cousin, Samuel.

Jeremiah is believed to have died during a home birth while Samuel allegedly starved to death. Neither boys' body has been found, but investigators believe they were buried in the woods of Maine last fall by four male sect members, including David Corneau.

"It's moving forward very slowly," David Corneau's attorney, Bob George, said of a possible deal. "We're talking daily."

David Corneau, who is living with four other sect members in Attleboro, has visited his wife three times in Houston House and talks to her daily. Prosecutors say Rebecca Corneau will be released from custody once she gives birth.

"There's no rift between them," George said of the couple. "In fact, they seem very happy."

DSS has taken 13 children from the cult, including the Corneaus' three children, and is expected to seek custody of the newborn. George has appealed the custody ruling and says he will fight the taking of the new baby.

The group, which shuns modern society and medicine, could face charges ranging from improper disposal of a body to murder.

The grand jury is expected to continue convening weekly for at least another month.

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