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Trials Are Over - The Attleboro Group
In April 1999, Samuel Robidoux, son of Jacques and Karen Ribodoux (nee Corneau), died of starvation, just short of his first birthday. In August 1999, Jeremiah Corneau, son of David and Rebecca Corneau, was apparently stillborn. Both babies were buried by the group without authorities being notified of their births or deaths. Both were born into a small extreme Christian fringe group made up mostly of family members. The group has been variously called: ’The Body’ as well as ’The Attleboro group/sect/cult’.
The leader of the group was Roland Robidouox. He and his wife, Georgette, had been members in the Worldwide Church of God, then a fully-fledged cult, which they left in about 1976. The following year they formed the Church of God of Mansfield, in Massachusetts, and had about 75 people attending. Some time later the group moved and became the Church of God of Norton.
Division within the group led to a decline and the church went out of existence, but Robidoux continued to hold Bible studies in his home. Ultimately he established the group in Attleboro, south of Boston.
During the 1980s Roger and Vivian Daneau, and their children, joined the Robidouxs. A few years later they all began home schooling their children. Women in the group stopped using make-up or jewellery; birthdays and holidays were no longer celebrated; the medical system was increasingly rejected as evil.
By the mid to late 1990s several others had joined, or married into, the group - including Dennis Mingo and David Corneau. It was about then that the group basically began to call itself ’The Body’ and Roland Robidoux (born in August 1940) became the group’s ’ordained’ pastor. (Two of the Robidoux children married two of the Daneau children, including Jacques Robidoux marrying Karen Corneau.) Carol Balizet’s book, Born in Zion, had become a significant guide for interpreting the Bible in the group. A little later her other book, Egypt or Zion, further influenced the group.
Roland Robidoux eventually elevated his son, Jacques, to the position of ’Elder’ of the group. Before long the junior Robidoux was challenging his father, especially his father’s claimed direct revelations. Soon he became the stronger leader. He was even more ardent in pushing and insisting on Carol Balizet’s bizarre claims and beliefs in the group, which became more isolationist and extreme in its beliefs and practices. (See TACLs: May-July 2001, Aug-Sep 2001, Jan. 2002 or our website: http://www.lookout.org.au/index.php?g=articles&a=0005 [0006, 0007] for an exposure of Balizet’s teachings)
Robidoux’s son-in-law, Dennis Mingo, became disturbed by these extreme developments, the death of one of the children, and the extreme control of his father-in-law, Roland Robidoux, over his family, especially his wife, Michelle. Mingo left the group. Then one of Robidoux’s daughters was excommunicated from the group for buying corrective glasses (spectacles) to help improve her eyesight. Another married couple left shortly after.
These departures reduced the group’s numbers, but made remaining members even more entrenched in their extremes.
Members of the group refused to let anyone know where the babies had been buried and when the authorities found out about the deaths, the group refused to cooperate in the inquiries. Eventually group member, David Corneau led authorities to the makeshift graves of the two babies. Welfare authorities took a number of children away from the group.
In 2003 Jacques Robidoux was convicted of the first-degree murder of his son, Samuel, and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Karen Robidoux faced the court in January 2004 on charges of second-degree murder. She was to have been tried and sentenced at the same time as her husband, but was ruled emotionally unfit to stand trial at the time. She spent three years in prison awaiting her trial, but had $100,000 bond posted and was released on bail in October 2003.
In early 1999 Samuel Robidoux was being fed solids to supplement limited breastfeeding, his mother, Karen, being pregnant again. At the time, Jacques Robidoux’s sister, Michelle Mingo, claimed to have had a vision from God commanding that Karen take Samuel off solids and only breastfeed him. Jacques insisted his wife obey the vision, in spite of her difficulty, and finally her total inability to breastfeed the baby. After 51 days of deterioration (which Jacques Robidoux noted in his diary) little Samuel died, just three days short of his first birthday.
Having successfully prosecuted the baby’s father for first-degree murder the District Attorney and Prosecutor believed they had a strong case against Karen Robidoux.
However, the jury acquitted Karen Robidoux (29) of second-degree murder on February 3, 2004, and found her guilty of lesser charges of assault and battery.
While her lawyers argued that she was brainwashed and suffering from ’battered wife syndrome’, that was not the deciding issue for the jury of eight men and four women. The prosecution had linked both Karen and Jacques Robidoux together and therefore claimed they shared the same intent. Yet Jacques Robidoux had testified at his own trial that Karen had wanted, and tried to, feed Samuel, but he and the others had refused her permission. While the prosecution saw no difference between the parents, the jury did, some acknowledging that it had been a personal and difficult decision to reach.
The court ordered her to two and a half years imprisonment and the payment of a small fine. As she had already served three years in jail she was set free.
Karen Robidoux had already severed her ties with ’The Body’ well before the trial, and was receiving counter-cult counselling and support from Robert and Judith Pardon, who had established a cult-recovery centre, Meadow Haven. Active Christians, Robert Pardon is a Congregationalist minister, while his wife, Judith, has a Master’s degree in psychology. Karen Robidoux will remain under the Pardon’s care and counselling for some time.
The Pardons had earlier assisted authorities in reviewing ’The Body’, resulting in welfare authorities removing some 13 children from the group, including four of Karen Robidoux’s children. She continues to struggle with their loss, the loss and death of Samuel — to which she had contributed — and the narrow-minded worldview and manipulation of the group and family that had controlled her life since she was 14 years of age.
Several days after Karen Robidoux’s release, Michelle Mingo (nee Robidoux) faced the court on charges of being an accessory to the murder of young Samuel. It had been her alleged vision from God that led to Samuel dying from starvation. Michelle Mingo pleaded guilty in court, on February 10, 2004, to two counts of being an accessory before the fact of assault and battery. She was sentenced to two years imprisonment, but having already served almost four years, was set free. She left the court with Timoty Daneau, a member of ’The Body’ and, according to some, her ’spiritual husband (her husband, Dennis, having left the group long ago and probably being regarded as ’spiritually dead’).
Several people, including Karen Robidoux’s defence lawyers, believe that Roland Robidoux, who has taken back control of the group and begun to add new members, should have been charged — at least as an accessory before that fact. As one of them stated, in rather strong language: ’Roland should be serving consecutive first-degree murder sentences. He is the face of evil, the devil incarnate. Strutting around, this hasn’t bothered him in the least.’
And what about Carol Balizet? Underlining this long sad saga is the influence of her disturbing and bizarre beliefs promoted through her books and materials.
(From TACL Vol 25 #3 June 2004)