No Charge for Couple Over Lost Baby

Associated Press/July 15, 2002

Boston -- Two members of a religious sect who refused to cooperate in a police investigation won't face criminal charges in the death of their stillborn child, a grand jury has determined.

State child care officials suspected Rebecca and David Corneau, who lost custody of their four children in 1999, were hiding a healthy newborn. But Rebecca Corneau's pregnancy ended in a stillbirth at a home in Rehoboth last November, according to a memo released Monday by the office of Bristol County Prosecutor Paul Walsh.

Walsh's office said the Corneaus and others testified that the baby was stillborn, and that a medical expert found their descriptions plausible.

"With no evidence to support any contrary conclusion, nor any evidence to support any criminal charges, the grand jury investigation is closed,'' chief trial counsel Gerald FitzGerald wrote in a June 29 memo to Walsh.

The Department of Social Services in January suspected Rebecca gave birth and asked a court for custody. The Corneaus refused for months to even acknowledge Rebecca had been pregnant, then claimed she had a late-term miscarriage.

Juvenile Court Judge Kenneth Nasif jailed the Corneaus for contempt when they refused to comply with his order to either produce their baby or say where the remains were buried. He ordered them released last month because the grand jury was looking into the matter.

"It was a tragedy that their child was stillborn, and it was a gross injustice that they were sent to prison for months because they weren't believed,'' said their attorney, J.W. Carney, Jr.

DSS spokeswoman Carol Yelverton declined to comment.

FitzGerald's memo said the location of the remains is unknown.

The Corneaus are members of a religious sect called The Body, which rejects modern medicine.

Another Corneau baby, Jeremiah, died during a home birth in 1999. The Corneaus said the baby was stillborn. State investigators said the baby's lungs were not properly cleared -- a routine procedure in hospital births.

The Corneaus were not charged, but they lost custody of their four other children.

The sect has come under fire since 1999, when authorities learned that both Jeremiah, and another child of sect members -- 1-year-old Samuel Robidoux -- were missing. After receiving immunity, David Corneau led investigators to the bodies, buried in a Maine park.

Samuel's mother, Karen Robidoux, is to stand trial in September for second-degree murder. His father, Jacques Robidoux, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Authorities said Samuel was starved after Jacques Robidoux's sister said she received a prophecy from God to take the boy off solid food and feed him only his mother's breast milk.

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