LAKEVILLE — Karen Robidoux, the former Attleboro cult member convicted this week of assault and battery in the starvation death of her baby son Samuel, will take the next steps with her life in Lakeville.
Since posting bail on the charges against her in October, the 28-year-old Robidoux has been a resident of Meadow Haven on Crooked Lane, a recovery center for people once under the influence of high-control organizations.
Robidoux was sentenced Tuesday in Taunton District Court to two years in prison on a count of assault and battery, but was set free because of 30 months already served, mostly at Taunton State Hospital.
Robidoux 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, the cult convinced Robidoux to withhold solid food from her son, which led to his death in 1999, just before his first birthday.
Meadow Haven founders, the Rev. Robert and Judith Pardon, say Robidoux was a victim during an ordeal in which coercion from members of the cult led to the death of her 10 1/2-month-old son.
“She was physically tortured in the group,” Robert Pardon said.
He said she had few choices at that time.
“She believed the cult’s distrust of the outside world. How could she leave? And leave her other children behind? She believed that God would kill her if she left. It’s for those reasons I say this woman is as much a victim,” Pardon said.
Pardon said he worked with Robidoux’ defense team and was an expert witness in her defense, but he was also the temporary guardian, the one appointed by the judge as an advocate for Robidoux children and who was responsible for telling the court to take her children away from her.
“I was responsible for telling the court to take the children away from their parents. Why now would I be on her defense team? I knew from her journal that she was a good mother. But as long as she would be in that group, her children would be in danger. It was exactly the right verdict, when you read the group’s own diaries on that period. Karen was deeply used and abused,” he said.
In response to Tuesday’s verdict against Robidoux, Bristol County District Attorney Paul Walsh, said, “This much is certain: Samuel was systematically starved to death by his father and by his mother.
“There is a time to temper justice with mercy. In my view, this wasn’t one of them,” Walsh said.
Pardon said all high-control groups operate the same way as The Body.
“They control your entire life. They demonize the outside world,” he said.
Meadow View is a residential rehabilitation center that brings refugees of such organizations to a new understanding of themselves, he said.
“The goal with Karen is to get her out of here a healed person. We don’t want her to leave any later or sooner than she needs. It takes time to learn there are good people in the world. The program’s residents normally spend six to eight months. When they enter here, first they are situated to make them feel at peace, to talk about their issues. Then there are support groups and individual counseling. Residents talk to each other and to us informally and formally.
“Karen’s goal is to come to a place to heal and put her life together and have a productive life,” he said.
Robidoux’ attorney, Joseph Krowski of Brockton, said a court order did not mandate her to attend the Meadow View program.
“She’s a free woman. Every one who has come out of a cult like The Body needs direction,” Krowski said. “She’s receiving the treatment she needs. This is the first time in 15 years she can think for herself. She was in jail for three years, and her mother and father had isolated her from the outside world at age 15. She was charged in 1999 for this offense and spent 30 months in jail awaiting trial. Eight months at Taunton State Hospital, receiving therapy. It’s going to take a while for her to heal.”
Robidoux has four other children, three boys and a girl.