Man Gets Life Term in Son's Death

TAUNTON, Mass. (AP) - A religious sect leader who said he was following instructions from God when he let his infant son slowly and painfully starve to death was convicted of murder Friday and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The jury took 6 hours to find 29-year-old Jacques Robidoux guilty of first-degree murder. His son, Samuel, was fed only his mother's breast milk for 51 days and died in 1999, three days shy of his first birthday.

During the trial, Robidoux said his sister had received a vision from God telling the couple to stop feeding the baby solid food.

Robidoux choked back tears as he described how Samuel went from a healthy, 10-month-old boy taking his first steps to a baby so withered he could no longer even crawl. His tiny bones were visible, and he cried in pain.

"His cry wasn't a normal baby's cry," Robidoux testified. "At times, his eyes would roll up in the back of his head. His skin on his chest changed to a dark color."

But Robidoux, whose sect rejects modern medicine and government, said he believed that the sight of Samuel's misery was a test of the family's will from Satan and that a miracle would save the boy.

Prosecutors used as evidence against Robidoux a journal in which he documented the boy's slow death.

"It was as atrocious an act as you can have when a parent, two parents in this case, kill their child, not in a drug-induced haze, not in a violent rage, but as coldly as one could commit such a horrendous act — day in, day out, for 51 days," prosecutor Walter Shea said.

Robidoux's wife, Karen, 26, faces trial Sept. 3 on a second-degree murder charge. His sister, Michelle Mingo, is awaiting trial on an accessory charge.

Defense attorney Francis O'Boy said he will appeal.

O'Boy maintained that Samuel could have died from some other cause. He called two witnesses: Robidoux and a forensic specialist who testified that he could not determine for certain that starvation was the cause of death.

In closing arguments, O'Boy asked for understanding from the jury for Robidoux, saying: "Unfortunately, the religious beliefs drilled into him as a youngster clouded his ability to make the right decision."

The sect has about 40 members from two extended families who lived in communal homes in Attleboro and Seekonk, outside Boston.

In 1999, another sect member, David Corneau, led authorities to Samuel's body, buried in Maine next to the remains of an infant cousin, Jeremiah. Corneau, Jeremiah's father, has said his own son was stillborn.