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Defense may take the stand

Journal Register News Service, USA
Jan. 27, 2004
Jeff Sullivan • Tuesday January 27, 2004

TAUNTON — Defense attorney Joseph Krowski would neither confirm nor deny yesterday rumors that his client, Karen Robidoux, will take the stand this week in her trial on second-degree murder charges in the starvation death of her infant son.

The Body

In early press reports, The Body was referred to generically as the “Attleboro cult” or “Attleboro sect.”

The group’s doctrines and practices have been heavily influenced by the teachings of Carol Balizet’s Home in Zion Ministries

The Body is a cult, both sociologicall and theologically. Theologically it a cult of Christianity

“I would tell you if she was or wasnt, but I just dont know right now,” Krowski said. “I thought about it all weekend. I spent the afternoon at my daughters house Sunday and I couldnt stop thinking about it.”

Krowski said it may not be necessary to hear from Robidoux in light of testimony given yesterday by Dr. Eli Newburger.

Newburger, pediatrics director at Childrens Hospital in Boston, said that when Robidoux shared with her mother, Vivian Daneau, her fears about her son, Samuel, starving to death, that Daneau rubbed the boys feet in hopes of improving circulation and told her daughter to continue withholding food from the child.

Samuel died just three days before his first birthday, on April 26, 1999.

Karen Robidouxs husband, Jacques, who was a member along with Karen of the religious sect known as “The Body,” was convicted of first-degree murder in his sons death in June 2002 and sentenced to life in prison.

Jacques father, Roland Robidoux, leads the sect, which is still practicing with at least 12 members in Attleboro. It rejects modern medicine, courts, government, schools, eyeglasses, media and holidays.

Krowskis two-hour cross-examination of Newburger, the prosecutions expert medical witness, was easily the four-day trials most heated.

Newburger, who admitted to Krowski he was being paid $450 an hour by the state to assist in the case, was adamant that Karen Robidoux was aware she was killing her son.

Krowski has based his case around the contention that Robidoux, who broke down in court for the third straight day yesterday, was brainwashed by the sect and wasnt in her right mind.

A member of the sect, Jacques sister, Michelle Mingo, allegedly shared with sect members a vision in which God told her that Karen could only feed Samuel breast milk or that she would lose one of the twins she was then pregnant with.

“She (Karen) knew this baby was going to die and she knew what Samuel needed to live,” Newburger said.

“On some level, yes, she was confused and paralyzed, but she knew her child was dying. Karen was acutely aware of the unfairness and the manifest fact that God wasnt coming down to rescue Samuel.”

According to Mingos alleged revelation, Robidoux could only breast feed Samuel for 10 minutes on each nipple, each hour. Robidoux was also put on a strict diet of almond milk, of which she drank more than a gallon each morning.

Earlier in the trial, Mingos sister and ex-husband said Mingo was lying about her vision because of an extreme jealously she had over Karen Robidouxs physical appearance.

In addition to Newburger, medical examiner Margaret Greenwald and former sect member Daniel Horton testified yesterday.

Despite being called by the prosecution, Hortons testimony appeared helpful to Robidoux.

“Im ashamed and disgusted,” Horton said. “I regret every day that I didnt step in to help Karen and Samuel.

“I was so beaten down. I couldnt make a decision for myself or my wife and four children. I had to check with the group, with Roland and Jacques. My life was taken away; it was like I didnt have a choice.

“We lived in this fear atmosphere,” Horton said. “I didnt feel able to walk away. It just wasnt possible to me. I thought I was doing right by God. Its foolish and stupid now to look back and wonder how you got to that point.”

The prosecution, led by Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Walter Shea, was at the trials outset expected to conclude its argument by yesterday, but is running at least a day behind schedule.

Its not likely that the defense will call its first witness until tomorrow morning at the earliest. Krowski said yesterday that the original timetable of Friday for closing arguments looks unrealistic.

Early next week seems more plausible for that phase of the trial, he said.

One prosecution witness who will not be testifying is current sect member David Corneau, who was arrested last Wednesday when he failed to appear in court.

He then refused to testify based on religious beliefs, despite having agreed to take the stand for both Robidoux murder trials in an immunity agreement he signed with the prosecution more than two years ago.

Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Donovan said yesterday morning that Corneau didnt have to take the stand, but that his testimony from Jacques trial would be admitted into evidence.

Attorney Francis OBoy, who defended Jacques Robidoux, sat in on the morning session yesterday and spoke briefly with Krowski. OBoy said before the trial that the state had no business charging Karen Robidoux with any crime, much less murder.

“The defense really has a shot to win this trial,” OBoy said.

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