Three Massachusetts sect members indicted in baby's death

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. - The leader of a fundamentalist sect was indicted on murder charges Monday along with his wife in the death of their infant son, who authorities believe died of starvation. A third member of the sect was charged as an accessory.

The indictment charges Jacques Robidoux with first-degree murder for allegedly ''directing the systematic withholding of nourishment'' for his 10-month-old son, Samuel.

Karen Robidoux, the baby's mother, was charged with second-degree murder.

And Jacques Robidoux's sister, Michelle Mingo, was charged as an accessory before the fact to assault and battery on a child.

''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,'' District Attorney Paul Walsh said. ''This is a clear case of murder. It ain't religion.''

Authorities said Mingo came up with the idea of starving the child. The indictment claims she concocted a ''vision'' and that the Robidouxs went along with it.

''She's the match that lit the torch,'' Walsh said.

All three were in jail and scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday. There was no record of an attorney for any of them. Sect members do not recognize the legal system.

The indictments come less than a week after sect member David Corneau testified before a grand jury investigating the deaths of his son and Samuel. Prosecutors believe that Samuel starved to death and that the Corneau child was stillborn.

Members of the Attleboro-based sect do not not believe in the use of traditional medicine; they also do not recognize the legal system and most members remained silent during the investigation.

But last month, after a promise of immunity for himself and his wife, Corneau began cooperating with authorities. He led them to a remote spot in the Maine wilderness where his son, Jeremiah, and Samuel were buried.

That breakthrough apparently gave prosecutors the evidence they needed to seek charges.

A handwritten journal found by a former sect member and given to authorities describes how Samuel may have died. The journal's author is not known. It was found in the home where the sect members lived.

Mingo apparently had a ''vision'' that God wanted Karen Robidoux to overcome her vanity by forsaking the flesh and consuming nothing but the broth of boiled almonds, according to the journal. She also was told to revert to only breast-feeding Samuel, the journal said.


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