Sect mom guilty of lesser charge
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Wednesday February 4, 2004
Sect mom guilty of lesser charge: Robidoux convicted of A&B for starving infant
TAUNTON — A former member of a religious sect was cleared of murder charges yesterday but convicted of assault and battery for starving her infant son to death to fulfill a prophecy.
Judge Elizabeth Donovan sentenced Karen Robidoux to 2 1/2 years in prison, but she was set free after the verdict because she has already spent nearly three years in state custody, mostly in a psychiatric hospital.
“It hasn’t fully hit me yet,” Robidoux said outside the courtroom. “I’m just glad that the nightmare door is shut.”
Robidoux, 28, and her husband Jacques were members of a tiny sect called “The Body,” which rejects modern medicine. After another member of the group told them about a message she received from God, they began withholding solid food from their son.
Her defense lawyer had argued that Robidoux was brainwashed and tortured by her husband and other members of the group, which rejects modern medicine.
But prosecutors said the real victim was Robidoux’s baby, Samuel, who died in 1999 just days shy of his first birthday.
“The jury contradicted itself,” Bristol District Attorney Paul F. Walsh said in a statement. “They found that she committed the act but chose to ignore the death caused by the act. … Never before in 14 years as district attorney have I been this disturbed by a verdict.”
After nearly two weeks of trial in Taunton Superior Court, the jury deliberated for parts of two days before reaching its verdict.
Prosecutors had sought a second-degree murder charge for Robidoux, but jurors also had the option of finding her guilty of manslaughter or assault and battery.
Robidoux’s lawyer, Joseph Krowski, called just two witnesses to the stand — both forensic psychologists who examined her at the state hospital in Taunton. Robidoux herself never testified.
One psychologist said Robidoux told him she began withholding solid food from her 10-month-old son after her sister-in-law told her about a message she received from God: Karen was “too vain” and God planned to punish her by killing one of the twins she believed she was pregnant with at the time.
Robidoux said she was told she could save the unborn twin if she put herself on a high-fat diet and fed Samuel only her own breast milk.
But because Robidoux was pregnant, she was producing only trace amounts of breast milk. She continued to try to breast feed Samuel every hour, as called for by the prophecy.
Prosecutors say the boy starved for 51 days, dying just three days before his first birthday. His body was discovered in a shallow grave in Maine’s Baxter State Park.
Robidoux later gave birth to a baby boy; she had not been pregnant with twins.
Prosecutor Walter Shea said Robidoux noticed her son’s deterioration quickly and did nothing to stop it. She told psychologists that he had been an active baby, but after being deprived of food, he became listless and was no longer able to roll over.
- District Attorney Paul F. Walsh
- Publishers, ReligionNewsBlog.com
- Bible, James 2:12-13
Shea said Robidoux could have left the group to save her child, and called to the witness stand several former members of the sect who said they left the group because of its domineering leaders and radical tenets.
But Krowski said Karen Robidoux had endured physical and psychological abuse for years. An unwed mother at 15, she grew up in a strict religious family and was married off to Jacques Robidoux, who along with his father was the leader of the Attleboro-based sect. The group isolated itself from society and modern culture, shunning doctors, banks, televisions, radios and newspapers.
She was frequently berated by other members of the sect, including her husband, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 2002 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“This much is certain: Samuel was systematically starved to death by his father and by his mother,” Walsh said. “There is a time to temper justice with mercy. In my view, this wasn’t one of them.”
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