- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 4, 2002

BOSTON (AP) It was said to be a prophecy from God: Karen Robidoux, a young mother and member of a tiny religious sect, needed to overcome her vanity. To do so, according to the prophecy delivered by her sister-in-law, she should drink only the liquid of boiled almonds and withhold solid food from her infant son, Samuel, by feeding him only breast milk.
For months, authorities say, members of the religious sect that eschews modern law and medicine adhered to what they said were God's instructions even as 10-month-old Samuel cried for food, became comatose and died.
The murder trial of the child's father, Jacques Robidoux, was to begin yesterday with jury selection.
Michelle Robidoux Mingo, the baby's aunt, faces a later trial on charges of being an accessory to assault and battery on a child for coming up with the idea of starving the child. Karen Robidoux is charged with second-degree murder. No trial dates have been set for them.
All three have pleaded not guilty.
Francis O'Boy, attorney for Jacques Robidoux, said he will challenge the notion that Samuel starved to death, arguing that the child's breast-milk diet was unusual but not unheard of at his age.
He also planned to argue that the child could have died for any number of reasons, such as iron deficiency, scurvy or rickets. And even if the jurors find Mr. Robidoux responsible, they should consider if he is guilty of a lesser charge than first-degree murder.
"There's certainly reasonable doubt as to what was the cause of death," Mr. O'Boy said. "We expect it to be a hotly contested trial, and the jurors will have a lot to think about. As usual, the facts may be considerably different from what the press has portrayed them to be so far."
Gary L. Mello, spokesman for the Bristol County district attorney's office, declined to comment.
The bizarre case of the sect, known as "The Body," took investigators from Attleboro to Maine's back woods, where in 1999 members buried the bodies of Samuel Robidoux and his newborn cousin, Jeremiah Corneau, far from the society they rejected. Jeremiah's parents, David and Rebecca Corneau, maintained he was stillborn and have not been charged in his death.
The infants' bodies were later found, based on information provided by David Corneau.
Police first came to the sect's home about 30 miles south of Boston in 1999 after Dennis Mingo, Michelle's husband and a dropout from the sect, found a journal describing Samuel Robidoux's condition. He took it to police.
The journal described Michelle Mingo's vision about Samuel. Prosecutors argue that Mrs. Mingo fabricated the vision because she was jealous of Karen Robidoux.
In November 2000, a grand jury indicted the Robidouxs and Mrs. Mingo. District Attorney Paul Walsh said it was a "clear case of murder."
"As the child is starving, with his ribs sticking out and his eyes rolling in opposite directions, they walked past the child on the way to the dinner table," he said.
Other sect members also are facing legal trouble.
David and Rebecca Corneau have been jailed for months for refusing to cooperate with state investigators who are seeking information about Rebecca Corneau's latest birth, believed to have been last fall.
State prosecutors believe the Corneaus are withholding information and want to know if the child is alive. The state has custody of the couple's four other children.


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