Couple Belonging to a Sect Are Jailed in a Mystery Over a Baby

New York Times/February 6, 2002
By Pam Belluck

Boston -- A couple who belong to a religious sect were put in jail today after they refused to cooperate with Massachusetts officials trying to determine whether the couple had a baby late last year.

Judge Kenneth Nasif of the juvenile court in Attleboro, the southeastern Massachusetts town where the sect is based, said he did not believe the couple when they contended today that they lost the baby in a miscarriage in November.

The couple, Rebecca and David Corneau, are members of The Body, a tiny sect that rejects modern medicine and, state officials say, has a history of mistreating children. Two babies belonging to sect members, including a child of the Corneaus, died in 1999, and sect members secretly buried the bodies in a state forest in Maine. The parents of the second child, Jacques and Karen Robidoux, have been charged with murder and accused of starving their 10- month-old son to death.

The state has placed 14 of the sect's children in foster care, including four of the Corneaus' children, whom state social service officials say were bruised from being disciplined with paddles. Late last year, when state officials were alerted to the possibility that Mrs. Corneau was pregnant again, they set out to verify the birth and take the baby into custody.

For the last several weeks, the Corneaus had refused to confirm whether or not they had had a new baby. Their lawyer, J. W. Carney Jr., said they were the victims of a state witch hunt and were being persecuted because of their religion. Last month, Judge Nasif found them in contempt, and on Monday they lost a court appeal to remain out of jail while they appeal the contempt order.

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