Massachusetts authorities traveled to Maine and were expected to take part today in a new - and hopefully narrowed - search for two boys believed to have been buried by an Attleboro cult, sources said.
"The search area has been somewhat refined" by new evidence, a source close to the investigation said.
The new evidence, which investigators hope will help determine where sect members allegedly buried 10-month-old Samuel Robidoux and his infant cousin, Jeremiah Courneau, is believed to have come from the home of former members, Dan and Renee Horton. Investigators searched the Hortons' Attleboro home last month but the results of that search have been impounded.
The Hortons testified last week before a Bristol County grand jury probing the boys' deaths but declined comment on the case. The grand jury is considering charges ranging from manslaughter to murder against cult members.
More than 100 searchers and 20 dog teams from Maine, as well as a trio of Massachusetts investigators, were expected to focus today's search on a 15-mile section of the Freezeout Trail inside Maine's Baxter State Park.
Authorities believe four male members of the Christian fundamentalist sect, including Samuel's father, Jacques Robidoux, buried the boys in tiny coffins in a makeshift grave along the trail. Samuel is believed to have starved to death after he stopped nursing while Jeremiah is believed to have been stillborn. Investigators combed parts of the trail last November but the search was called off due to inclement weather.
No digging was planned today but if search dogs pick up a scent, the area would be turned into a crime scene, Maine Warden Service spokesman Mark Latti said.
"If the dogs really thought something was there, the state medical examiner would be called in and they would excavate," Latti said.
Ex-cult member Dennis Mingo, who has cooperated with the investigation, said he has "mixed feelings" about the search.
"Part of me doesn't want to believe Samuel is really dead," Mingo said yesterday. "I'd like the whole thing put to rest but I don't think they'll find anything."
Mingo, who is fighting for permanent custody of his children and has accused cult members of spying on him, said the ordeal has taken a heavy toll on his family.
"It's hard to cope. It's a battle," he said. "I'm just trying my best for my family."
Reputed cult leader Jacques Robidoux, and five other members, including Mingo's wife, Michelle Mingo, are behind bars for refusing to tell authorities what happened to the boys. All of the jailed members are being held in separate facilities in an apparent attempt to smash the tightly knit group.