Trial judge rules cult mom is sane

An Attleboro cult mom cleared yesterday to stand trial for starving her baby to death has cut her ties to the authoritarian group after years of brainwashing and mental slavery, her lawyer says.

“She was controlled, manipulated, oppressed and threatened,” Brockton attorney Joseph Krowski said of Karen Robidoux‘s tumultuous decade in The Body religious sect. “She had nowhere to go. She was in a multiwalled prison.”

Robidoux, 28, had been deemed incompetent to stand trial earlier this year after doctors said she sat curled in the fetal position and suffered uncontrollable breakdowns at the mention of the 1999 murder of her 1-year-old son, Samuel. Yesterday, a Dedham Superior Court judge reversed that decision, clearing the way for a January trial.

“I was never really of the opinion that she was incompetent to stand trial,” said Bristol Assistant District Attorney Walter Shea. “We’re ready to go to trial.”

The daughter of born again-Christian parents, Robidoux is charged with second-degree murder for allegedly starving the boy to death to fulfill a sick religious prophecy. Her husband, Jacques, was convicted last year of first-degree murder and is serving a life sentence in MCI-Concord, where he is in protective custody. The boy’s aunt, Michelle Mingo, is awaiting trial on accessory charges for allegedly fabricating a “vision from God” to deny the boy food.

Krowski is using a battered women’s syndrome defense, claiming Robidoux was victimized by her husband and other sect leaders. During the past year, Robidoux has severed all ties to the group and has met twice weekly with Robert Pardon, a cult deprogrammer who runs the New England Institute of Religious Research.

“She has realized that the group manipulated her and forced her into behavior and decisions she never would have made,” Pardon said.

According to Pardon, the group’s extensive journals detail a culture of torment, in which Karen Robidoux was mentally abused and children were routinely beaten with wooden paddles. The group wielded the “word of God” as a weapon, forcing Robidoux into dangerous – and ultimately deadly – habits, he said.

“This group is analogous to the Branch Davidians or the Heaven’s Gate cults. People died in this group,” Pardon said. “This group thought they were writing Scripture. They thought they were receiving revelations from God.”

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