Attleboro cult mom Karen Robidoux is a "battered woman" who suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and was unable to flee the high-control sect - even as her baby starved to death right before her eyes, her therapist testified yesterday.
"She was unable to leave the group," Taunton State Hospital psychiatrist Dr. Ronald Ebert said. "She was a battered woman. She was battered by the group."
Robidoux, who faces second degree murder charges for the 1999 starvation death of her 11-month-old son, Samuel, broke down sobbing as Ebert told the Taunton Superior Court jury that she was unable to make rational decisions because the group manipulated and controlled her life.
"She was told that God would watch her if she left . . . (and) that her family outside the group was poison," Ebert said. "She had nowhere to go."
Ebert, who has met with Robidoux a dozen times over the past year, said, "She was trying to be a good member of the group. She wanted to belong. "There was nothing she could do. Suddenly, she had been told that God was angry with her because she was too vain, and that he was going to kill one of her children. It was overwhelming."
Prosecutors say Robidoux' sister-in-law, Michelle Mingo, delivered a prophecy that said Robidoux was "vain" and that God would take her unborn child if she didn't switch Samuel from table food to breast milk. Robidoux, who was pregnant and nursing two babies at the time, was also to drink a gallon of almond milk a day, which Ebert said made her vomit.
Robidoux, 29, stopped eating and eventually produced no breast milk to feed her dying son.
"Her diet was impaired; she couldn't eat; she wasn't sleeping; and she was trying to be good," Ebert said. "The baby couldn't get milk and he was chewing the flesh out of her nipples. It's hard to see how someone could function."
Robidoux, Ebert said, became an outcast within the group starting at age 15 when she had her second child and was deemed "impure." Ebert said the group's relentless browbeating caused her to suffer flashbacks, nightmares, mood swings and uncontrollable breakdowns.
"Karen was the one who didn't fit. She didn't go along. She thought too much. She needed to be fixed," Ebert said.
Prosecutor Walter Shea, however, has argued that Robidoux had a responsibility to save her son's life. Under the law, the jury can convict Robidoux of second degree murder if they find a "reasonable person" would have known that their actions would lead to the child's death.
"I believe the evidence has shown she knew her child would die," Shea said outside the courtroom. Robidoux's husband, Jacques, is serving life for the boy's killing, while Mingo faces accessory charges.
Also yesterday, state police Lt. Robert Horman recalled how authorities, acting on information from the sect's children, searched unsuccessfully three times for Samuel's body in Maine's sprawling Baxter State Park.
The boy's body, and that of his stillborn cousin, Jeremiah, were found buried in a shallow hilltop grave in October 2000 with the help of cult member David Corneau.