Sect member to plead guilty as accessory in baby's starving death

Associated Press/February 9, 2004
By Denise Lavoie

Boston -- A member of a religious sect whose self-described vision from God led to the starvation death of an infant is expected to plead guilty to an accessory charge, the prosecutor in the case confirmed Monday.

Michelle Mingo is scheduled to appear in Taunton Superior Court Tuesday afternoon for a change of plea hearing on a charge of being an accessory before the fact to an assault and battery on a child.

Because Mingo has already been held in state custody for nearly four years, prosecutors will not recommend any additional prison time, Assistant District Attorney Walter Shea told The Associated Press.

The maximum penalty on the charge is five years, but because Mingo was a first-time offender, she likely would have received a sentence ranging from probation to two years, Shea said.

Mingo, a member of a tiny religious sect known as ''The Body,'' was charged after her nephew, Samuel Robidoux, died of starvation three days before his first birthday in 1999.

Prosecutors said it was Mingo who started the chain of events that led to Samuel's death when she told her brother, Jacques Robidoux, and sister-in-law, Karen Robidoux, that she had a vision from God about their son, Samuel.

According to the prophecy described by Mingo, Karen Robidoux a slender, attractive woman was too vain. Karen, Mingo said, must overcome her vanity by drinking at least a gallon a day of almond milk broth from boiled almonds and must only breast-feed Samuel, who at 10 months had been eating solid food.

If Karen Robidoux did not follow this plan, God would kill one of the twins she believed she was pregnant with at the time, according to a description provided by former sect members who testified at the trials of Jacques and Karen Robidoux.

As his parents followed the instructions given by Mingo, Samuel became weaker and weaker, and eventually died of starvation, after 51 days of receiving only small amounts of his mother's breast milk. Karen Robidoux was pregnant at the time and was producing only trace amounts of milk, according to testimony at her trial.

Shea said Mingo was told a year ago that if she pleaded guilty to the accessory charge, prosecutors would recommend that she serve no additional jail time because she had already served more time than recommended by sentencing guidelines.

''This was a long process to bring her to this point,'' the prosecutor said. ''To wind up four years later to have her plead guilty to the charge the grand jury saw fit to charge her with indicates, if anything, that what we did was warranted.''

Mingo's attorney, Alan Zwirblis, did not return a telephone call seeking comment Monday.

In June 2002, Jacques Robidoux was convicted of first-degree murder in Samuel's death and is now serving a life sentence.

Last week, a jury cleared Karen Robidoux of second-degree murder charges, but convicted her of assault and battery. Her lawyer had argued that she was brainwashed by her husband and other members of the religious sect. Because she had been in state custody for nearly three years, she was not required to serve any additional time.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.


Educational DVDs and Videos