Taunton -- A baby allegedly starved to death by an Attleboro cult couple died of malnutrition, leaving his tiny bones brittle and porous, and likely contracted scurvy and other vitamin deficiency diseases, medical experts testified yesterday.
"The cause of death is severe malnutrition due to starvation,'' said Dr. Margaret Greenwald, the chief medical examiner from Maine who performed an autopsy on Samuel Robidoux.
The 11-month-old boy's remains were unearthed from a makeshift grave in Maine's Baxter State Park in October 2000.
Prosecutors say he was starved to death by his parents, Jacques and Karen Robidoux, after the child's aunt, Michelle Mingo, prophesied that God wanted Samuel to be put on a breast milk-only diet.
Samuel died in April 1999, just three days before his first birthday, and was secretly buried in the upstate Maine park four months later by members of the reclusive religious sect.
Jacques Robidoux, 29, is charged with murder in the case and was slated to take the stand in his own defense this morning in Taunton Superior Court.
Karen Robidoux, 26, faces a separate trial on second-degree murder while Mingo, 37, is charged as an accessory.
Greenwald, who has done more than 5,000 autopsies in her career, said she based her ruling on the condition of the boy's skeleton and information provided by investigators.
"There was severe malnutrition in the bones,'' she said. "The bones showed generalized demineralization.''
Dr. Marcella Sorg, a forensic anthropologist from Maine who also examined the bones, determined the child probably was stricken with scurvy - a disease caused by a lack of Vitamin C - among other ailments.
The boy, recalled by ex-cult members as "chubby'' and "happy,'' had already been eating table food but was allegedly cut off by the sect after Mingo's "vision.''
As close-up pictures of Samuel's tiny remains were displayed on courtroom TV monitors, Sorg testified that the bones were "porous'' from malnutrition.
She also said his skeleton was so tiny that doctors examining the remains had to use an X-ray scanner usually used for mice.
"There were a number of abnormalities that could be seen in almost every bone,'' Sorg said.
"It was consistent with a deficiency of micronutrients . . . and is part of a malnutrition pattern,'' she said.
Jacques Robidoux, who has claimed he is a member of a sovereign nation immune to United States law, barely glanced at the pictures and showed little emotion during the doctors' graphic testimony.
Robidoux's lawyer, Frank O'Boy, has claimed that the group may have been negligent but that his client did not intend to kill his son.
"He wants to tell his story,'' O'Boy said of the decision to put the reputed cult leader on the stand.
"He wants to be judged for the person he is.''