Sect mother to stand trial in death of son

Associated Press/September 24, 2003

Dedham, Mass. -- A mother who allegedly watched her infant son starve to death because of a religious prophecy was ordered Wednesday to stand trial on a second-degree murder charge after psychiatrists determined she was competent to face the ordeal of a trial.

Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Donovan ruled Karen Robidoux is competent to stand trial in the 1999 death of her 11-month-old son Samuel, according to prosecutors.

The judge did not set a trial date, but a tentative date in January will be discussed at an Oct. 30 status hearing, said Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Walter Shea.

Robidoux has been in custody since being indicted in November 2000. She had been scheduled to go to trial last January, but after a psychiatric evaluation at Taunton State Hospital, experts said she was too emotionally distraught to stand trial. Since then, she has received psychiatric treatment.

Robidoux's husband, Jacques Robidoux, was convicted of first-degree murder in the boy's death and sentenced to life in prison in June 2002.

The couple were members of a tiny, Attleboro-based religious sect called ''The Body,'' which rejects modern medicine.

Jacques Robidoux, a leader of the sect, testified at his trial that he watched Samuel starve over 51 days in 1999 after his sister, Michelle Mingo, said she had a prophecy from God that Karen Robidoux should withhold solid food from the boy and only give him breast milk.

Prosecutors say the child starved over the next 51 days because his mother had become pregnant again and stopped producing enough milk. Jacques Robidoux also testified that his wife wanted to feed the boy, but he wouldn't permit it.

Samuel died April 26, 1999, three days before his first birthday. His body was buried in Maine's Baxter State Park.

Karen Robidoux's attorney, Joseph Krowski, has said she is not criminally responsible for Samuel's death because she was brainwashed by fellow sect members, including her husband.

Krowski did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press.

Prosecutors say Karen Robidoux knew what she was doing and should have helped her son. If convicted of the second-degree murder charge, she faces life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years.

Mingo is charged with being an accessory to assault and battery on a child. She is also awaiting trial. Both Mingo and Karen Robidoux have pleaded innocent.

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