TAUNTON, Mass. – A jury began deliberating Monday whether a woman accused of starving her baby to death to fulfill a religious prophesy was a willing participant or was victimized by her husband and the sect they belonged to.
A prosecutor said in closing arguments that the real victim was Karen Robidoux‘s baby, Samuel, who died in 1999 just days shy of his first birthday.
“Karen Robidoux made a choice,” Assistant District Attorney Walter Shea told jurors in Taunton Superior Court. “She chose her husband and her faith over the life of her child.”
Defense attorney Joseph Krowski countered that Robidoux “suffered a psychological battery of unparalleled proportions.”
“This isn’t about religion,” he said in his closing argument. It’s about what some evil, clever people can do.”
The jury did not reach a verdict Monday and was scheduled to reconvene Tuesday morning.
Robidoux, charged with second-degree murder, and her husband, Jacques, who was convicted of murder in 2002, were members of a small religious sect called “The Body.”
The couple began withholding solid food from the baby after Robidoux’s sister-in-law, also a member of the sect, told her of a message she received from God.
Prosecutors said the boy was starved over 51 days before he died. His body was found in a shallow grave in Maine’s Baxter State Park.
Krowski said Robidoux was brainwashed and tortured by her husband and other members of the sect, which rejects modern medicine.
Forensic psychologist Charlotte Denton, who examined Robidoux several times at Taunton State Hospital, testified Monday that Robidoux was “in a cognitive and emotional fog” as a result of psychological abuse by her husband and other sect members.
On Friday, another defense psychologist, Ronald Ebert, had testified the boy’s starvation came after her sister-in-law told Robidoux, then pregnant, was “too vain” and that God planned to punish her by taking one of the twins she was supposedly carrying.
Ebert said Robidoux told him that her sister-in-law assured her she could save one of the unborn babies if she put herself on a high-fat diet and fed Samuel only her own breast milk. Ebert said because Robidoux was pregnant, she was producing only trace amounts of milk, which was not enough to keep the baby alive.
Robidoux was not actually pregnant with twins; she later gave birth to a baby boy.