Attleboro cult mother's newborn taken by DSS

Boston Phoenix, October 17, 2000
By Tom Farmer and Dave Wedge

A member of a controversial Attleboro cult gave birth to a baby girl yesterday in a secure Boston medical facility where a judge had sent her to protect the fetus.

Rebecca Corneau gave birth to a 7-pound, 15-ounce girl at 2:40 p.m. at the Neil J. Houston House, a facility for pregnant women in state custody, in the presence of several relatives and a midwife, Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Gerry FitzGerald said.

The state Department of Social Services took custody of the child pending a custody hearing Oct. 26 before Attleboro District Court Judge Kenneth Nasif, who had sent Corneau to the Houston House Aug. 31.

"The DSS has been given custody of this infant. What we will now do is make sure she gets medical attention, that her needs are met and that she's well-cared for," said DSS spokeswoman Carol Yelverton.

Eight members of the Christian sect, which shuns any type of medical care, are jailed in contempt of court for refusing to cooperate in the investigation of the deaths of two children, including Corneau's infant son, Jeremiah. While cult members maintain the baby was stillborn, prosecutors allege he would have survived if a doctor or midwife had been present at birth. Investigators are also searching for the remains of 10-month-old Samuel Robidoux, son of the group's leader, Jacques Robidoux, who prosecutors allege starved to death.

Rebecca Corneau and her husband, David, who was recently freed from jail after he invoked his right against self-incrimination, left the Houston House last night with the baby who was to be tested at Children's Hospital before being turned over to DSS, according to televised reports.

David Corneau's attorney, Robert A. George, was angry yesterday that the newborn was turned over to DSS, saying she should remain "under the custody of the commonwealth" at the Houston House.

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