Sect member granted immunity testifies against brother-in-law

Boston Globe/June 8, 2002

Taunton, Mass. -- A member of an Attleboro religious sect testified in the murder trial of his brother-in-law, recalling how he helped bury the remains of a one-year-old child prosecutors say was starved to death.

David Corneau, 35, testified against Jacques Robidoux on Friday in Taunton Superior Court.

Robidoux, 29, is charged with first-degree murder for allegedly withholding food from his son, Samuel Robidoux, over a two-month period. The boy died three days before his first birthday in April 1999. Corneau's infant son, Jeremiah, was found buried next to Samuel Robidoux in a remote Maine state park,

Corneau testified under immunity from prosecutors. He said in early 1999, he noted that Samuel Robidoux was crying more often and his face looked drawn. He said the group prayed about his condition.

''There was something going on,'' Corneau said. ''I'm not sure what. He was losing weight and needed prayers.''

He said the boy's cries ''changed from the normal cry of a child being hungry to a cry of hurt, like something was wrong.''

Robidoux is charged with refusing to feed his son solid food after a member of his embattled sect had a vision that he only be fed breast milk.

Prosecutors say the boy received almost no nutrition because his mother had become pregnant and was unable to produce milk.

Corneau said he built Samuel Robidoux's plywood casket and months later helped Jacques Robidoux carry the boy's remains to Baxter State Park in Maine. He later led authorities to the burial site.

Robidoux's attorney, Francis O'Boy, has said there is no clear evidence Samuel died of starvation and that the boy may have died for another reason.

The sect to which both Robidoux and Corneau belong rejects modern medicine and the government.

Corneau and his wife, Rebecca, are jailed on contempt of court charges after refusing to answer questions about another child the state Department of Social Services believes is either dead or hidden.

The Corneaus maintain Rebecca had a miscarriage, and that they are being persecuted for their religious beliefs.

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