Expert examining diaries in sect murder case

Providence Journal/October 18, 2001

Who wrote the diaries that prosecutors say detail two months of starvation for baby Samuel Robidoux, whose parents, members of an Attleboro religious sect, are charged with his murder?

An expert hired by the state is currently examining more than 5,000 pages of diaries, along with handwriting samples given by two sect members to determine the authors of those ominous journals.

But prosecutors handling the case say they have no doubt who wrote which of the diaries, based on where they were found within the sect's duplex at 196-198 Knight Ave. in Attleboro, along with how the authors use terms such as mom and dad to refer to other members of the sect.

This is what the public doesn't know about these cases, Asst. Dist. Atty. Walter J. Shea said yesterday. Even when prosecutors are sure of their facts, they must sometimes put in extra effort and consult with experts to head off or at least, they hope water down an attack on the evidence by defense lawyers.

By heading off potential issues that the defense could use to create doubt, prosecutors hope to simplify the case that will be presented to the jury.

But the Attleboro sect case has had more twists and turns than a John Grisham novel. One of the latest is that Jacques D. Robidoux, 28, who is charged with first-degree murder, defied a court order to give a handwriting sample, potentially complicating the prosecution's attempt to simplify the issue of who wrote the journals.

Robidoux's wife, Karen E. Robidoux, 26, and his sister, G. Michelle Mingo, 36, complied with the court order on Sept. 24. Karen Robidoux is charged with second-degree murder. Mingo is charged with being an accessory before the fact to an assault on Samuel. Prosecutors say the Robidouxes took 10-month-old Samuel off solid food after Mingo said she had received a vision from God that that the baby was only to have his mother's milk. Samuel died three days before his first birthday.

The case is scheduled to go to trial March 4. Several key strategic battles loom before then, including a defense motion to move the trial outside of eastern Massachusetts, arguing that publicity has made it impossible for the sect members to receive a fair trial. The defense is also expected to move to have separate trials for each defendant.

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