Probe continues as sect members close their ranks

Boston Herald/June 15, 2002
By Dave Wedge

Yesterday's murder conviction of cult leader Jacques Robidoux ended the heart-wrenching, three-year mystery of a missing toddler but the probe into the reclusive sect continues as the group apparently remains as tight as ever. "The way they act, changing things as it suits them . . . they are people who are personally disgusting to me,'' prosecutor Walter Shea said of the Attleboro-based group known as "The Body.''

Jacques Robidoux, 29, will spend his life in prison for starving his son, Samuel, to death. The toddler's mother, Karen Robidoux, is awaiting trial on murder charges while the boy's aunt, Michelle Mingo, faces accessory charges.

But Samuel's unthinkable demise is only the most egregious example of the cult's twisted belief system, investigators say.

"Some of the stories the children told us were very disturbing,'' said Tom Carroll, a child abuse investigator for Bristol District Attorney Paul F. Walsh Jr. who worked on the Attleboro cult case.

There have been allegations that the group spanked their children with paddles, leaving welts. On a misguided 1998 trip to Maine, the adults purposely starved themselves and their children for three days before giving up the ill-fated pilgrimage to nowhere.

And there are more missing babies.

Sect members Rebecca and David Corneau are currently in jail for refusing to reveal what happened to their most recent child. The couple says Rebecca Corneau had a miscarriage in the fall but prosecutors fear the child was born healthy and is being hidden with members Mark and Trinette Daneau.

The Daneaus fled the area last year around the time Rebecca Corneau gave birth and are believed to have a newborn of their own. A grand jury is currently probing what happened to the Corneau baby.

Shea said he believes members will attend the trials of Karen Robidoux and Mingo but will then likely disappear. The cult is known to have ties to similar-minded religious groups in Florida and Tennessee.

Since the probe into the sect began, at least 14 children have been removed by the Department of Social Services. Police will continue to keep tabs on the group, Shea said.

"DSS, absolutely if given any information that any of these women become pregnant, they would take action to protect those children,'' he said.

Shea says it took courage for ex-members Dennis Mingo, Nicole and Richard Kidson, and Dan and Renee Horton, to leave the high-control group. Many of them have gone to cult deprogramming and are still adjusting to life outside the fundamentalist sect.

"Mingo, the Hortons, the Kidsons, are continuing the process of pulling away from this mindset,'' Shea said. "They're getting counseling. They're better off and their children are better off.''

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