An Attleboro cult mom seeking to beat a murder rap by claiming she was forced through mind control to stop feeding her son suffers from "post-traumatic stress disorder'' and is shocked by the reality of what's happened, a defense expert says.
"She's coming to realize that this was all bogus, that she was manipulated incredibly by the group,'' cult deprogrammer Robert Pardon said of Karen Robidoux. "She's very depressed and she's now realizing that a lot of those decisions that were made for her, were not realistic at all.''
Robidoux, 27, began a 20-day evaluation at Taunton State Hospital this week after her attorney moved to have her trial delayed because she is severely depressed. Defense attorney Joseph Krowski claims his client should not be held responsible for the 1999 starvation death of her 1-year-old son, Samuel, because she was brainwashed by the fundamentalist sect.
"She's been unable to assist in her own defense,'' said Pardon, a noted cult expert who has worked with several ex-members of the Attleboro group and is in close contact with Robidoux.
But Walter Shea, who prosecuted Jacques Robidoux, said he expects state doctors will determine she is fit to stand trial.
"I'm assuming they'll find her competent,'' he said.
Robidoux's husband, Jacques, is serving life in prison for systematically denying Samuel food until the boy died three days before his birthday on April 26, 1999. The child was missing for months before investigators, with the help of a sect member, unearthed his remains from a hidden grave in Maine's Baxter State Park.
During his trial, Jacques Robidoux testified they stopped feeding their son to comply with a bizarre religious prophecy handed down by his sister, Michelle Mingo, who is awaiting trial on accessory charges.
Karen Robidoux, who still communicates with her jailed husband through letters, was slated to go to trial Jan. 6, but the case was put on hold after a judge ordered her evaluated at the Taunton hospital.
Known as The Body, the sect was formed by Jacques Robidoux' father, Roland, who ex-members say ruled the group with an iron fist. Members live communally and flatly reject mainstream society, including conventional medicine, banking and education.
Krowski, who has enlisted the help of Pardon and other cult experts, is planning to use a "battered woman's syndrome'' defense, claiming Karen Robidoux was bullied into following the group's misguided beliefs, primarily by Roland Robidoux.
"They play up the fact that Roland was controlling her mind,'' Shea said. "But she and her husband did this to their child. She's still in direct and constant contact with her husband, and he's the one who's been convicted of first-degree murder for killing their son.''
But Pardon said Karen Robidoux suffered psychological damage at the hands of the group. A mother of two other children from different fathers outside of the sect, she is just beginning to sever her ties to the group and deal with her son's death in a realistic light, Pardon said. " Karen was used and abused. She was tortured and really kept captive,'' he said. "She now doesn't buy the fact that the group was hearing directly from God and, unfortunately, she and Jacques are the ones who've paid the ultimate price.''