'Crack' in cult's stone wall

Dad of missing infant to break his silence

Boston Herald, September 9, 2000
By Boston Herald

The husband of a pregnant Attleboro cultist hospitalized against her will is poised to shatter the tightly knit sect's code of silence and could help lead investigators to the remains of two dead children.

David Corneau, who was one of four cult members who allegedly buried two children in the woods of Maine last fall, was expected to appear before a Fall River Superior Court judge this morning to break his silence.

"This is a big crack in the wall," a source said. "He was in the (cult's) house and saw everything. He was in the group that buried the kids in Maine. He knows where they are."

Corneau, 32, would either invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination or agree to answer questions before a grand jury probing the deaths of two cult children, his attorney, Robert George, said yesterday.

"My belief is that he'll be free at the end of the hearing," George said. "He will either announce he wants to answer questions or he will invoke his constitutional rights."

The sect is under investigation for the deaths of Corneau's son, Jeremiah, who allegedly died during a home birth, and his 10-month- old cousin, Samuel Robidoux, who prosecutors say starved to death.

Investigators believe the bodies were buried in Maine last fall by four men, including Corneau and Samuel's father, reputed cult leader Jacques Robidoux. The bodies have not been found.

Corneau and seven other sect members have been locked up for months for refusing to cooperate with the criminal probe. All have repeatedly refused to acknowledge the court system, claiming the state has no right to investigate the children's deaths.

George said persuading Corneau to go against the insular group wasn't easy. "I told him, `You can do more for your religion and your family outside of prison, than inside.' And he's listening to me," George said.

Since the probe began, 13 children have been taken from the group and placed into Department of Social Services custody.

Last month, in a move that infuriated women's groups and sparked widespread controversy, Corneau's pregnant wife, Rebecca, was sent to a secure hospital by an Attleboro judge who feared she may harm her unborn child.

The Corneaus say Jeremiah was stillborn, while prosecutors say the baby died due to a lack of health care.

Yesterday, Rebecca Corneau remained in the Neil J. Houston House in Roxbury, a facility for pregnant prison inmates, but had yet to give birth, officials said.

Until today, the only other active group member to even acknowledge the court system was Samuel's mother, Karen Robidoux, who invoked her Fifth Amendment rights last year when asked by police what happened to her son. Since then, she has stonewalled investigators, sources say.

Frustrated investigators, who have struggled for a year to build a circumstantial case against the fundamentalist group, hope Corneau's flip-flop could signal the end of the group's tight-lipped tactics. "This could be the break we need," one investigator said.

The group, which shuns mainstream society and denounces doctors as "false gods," bases its religion on the Old Testament and was influenced by the Home in Zion Ministries in Florida, a fringe religious group that advocates spiritual healing and home births.

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