Grand jury indicts three sect members

Associated Press/November 13, 2000
By Theo Emery

Three members of an Attleboro religious sect were indicted Monday in the death of the group leader's infant son, whom authorities believe was starved to death.

The indictment accuses Jacques Robidoux of ''directing the systematic withholding of nourishment'' for his 10-month-old son.

Karen Robidoux, the baby's mother, was indicted on a charge of second-degree murder, and Jacques Robidoux's sister, Michelle Mingo, was charged as an accessory before the fact to assault and battery on a child for coming up with the idea of not feeding the child.

''As the child is starving, with his ribs sticking out and his eyes rolling in opposite directions, they walked past the child on the way to the dinner table,'' said District Attorney Paul Walsh.

Karen Robidoux was arrested Monday and joined her husband and Mingo, who have been held in jail for several months for refusing to cooperate with the grand jury investigation into the death.

The indictments come less than a week after sect member David Corneau testified before a grand jury investigating the deaths of his son and the other child, Samuel Robidoux. Prosecutors believe Samuel starved to death, and that the Corneau child was stillborn.

Members of the Attleboro sect do not recognize the legal system, do not prescribe to traditional medicine and had remained silent for months. But after a promise of immunity for himself and his wife, Corneau began cooperating with authorities last month. He led them to a remote site at Baxter State Park in Maine where his son, Jeremiah Corneau, and Samuel Robidoux were buried. That breakthrough apparently gave prosecutors the evidence they needed to seek the criminal indictments.

A handwritten journal found by Mingo's ex-husband, Dennis, a former sect member, gave authorities some idea of how Samuel may have died. The journal's author is not known.

One entry said Michelle Mingo had a vision that God wanted Karen Robidoux to overcome her vanity by forsaking the flesh and consuming nothing but the broth of boiled almonds. Karen Robidoux also was told to revert to only breast-feeding Samuel.

Another entry from March 14, 1999: ''Karen's day started strong and positive with a good attitude. As the day grew on, Satan used the physical sight of Samuel to really get to her. He was obviously losing much weight and becoming much weaker.''

In the last entry, March 17, God tells Karen, ''Just as it pleased Me for you to grow your hair long, to stop drinking coffee and to pray for another child, it would please Me if you took Samuel and left him in the palm of My hand.''

When asked about the religious aspect of the case Monday, Walsh did not equivocate: ''This is a clear case of murder. This ain't religion.''

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