No charges against sect couple over pregnancy

BOSTON (AP) A grand jury has determined that two members of an Attleboro-based religious sect won't face criminal charges over a controversial pregnancy.

According to a memo released Monday by Bristol County District Attorney Paul Walsh's office, Rebecca Corneau's pregnancy ended in a stillbirth at a Rehoboth home last November.

Walsh's office said Rebecca and David Corneau and others testified that the baby was stillborn, and that a medical expert found their descriptions plausible.

''As a consequence, with no evidence to support any contrary conclusion, nor any evidence to support any criminal charges, the grand jury investigation is closed,'' chief trial counsel Gerald T. FitzGerald wrote in a June 29 memo to Walsh.

''It took the integrity of District Attorney Paul Walsh and the grand jury to finally bring this matter to a close,'' said their attorney, J.W. Carney, Jr.

State child care officials suspected the Corneaus, who lost custody of their four children in 1999, were hiding a healthy newborn.

The Department of Social Services in January suspected Rebecca gave birth and asked a court for custody. The Corneaus refused for months to even acknowledge Rebecca had been pregnant, then claimed she had a late-term miscarriage.

Juvenile Court Judge Kenneth Nasif awarded DSS temporary custody and jailed the Corneaus for contempt when they refused to comply with his order to either produce their baby or say where the remains were buried. He ordered them released last month because the grand jury was looking into the matter.

''It was a tragedy that their child was stillborn, and it was a gross injustice that they were sent to prison for months because they weren't believed,'' said Carney.

DSS spokeswoman Carol Yelverton declined to comment.

The Corneaus gave detailed descriptions of the delivery, FitzGerald's memo said, but the location of the remains is unknown.

''The only witness with knowledge of the whereabouts of the remains refused to disclose its location, claiming a privilege against self-incrimination,'' he said.

The Corneaus are members of a sect called ''The Body,'' which rejects modern medicine. Another sect member, Jacques Robidoux, was convicted last month of first-degree murder for starving to death his son.

Another Corneau baby, Jeremiah, died during a home birth in 1999. The Corneaus said the baby was stillborn. State investigators said the baby's lungs were not properly cleared a routine procedure in hospital births.

The Corneaus were not charged, but they lost custody of their four other children.

The sect has come under fire from the state since 1999, when authorities learned that both Jeremiah, and another child of sect members 1-year-old Samuel Robidoux were missing.

After receiving immunity from prosecution, David Corneau led investigators to the bodies, buried in Baxter State Park in Maine.

Samuel's mother, Karen Robidoux, is scheduled to stand trial in September on a charge of second-degree murder. His father was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Authorities said Samuel was starved after Jacques Robidoux's sister said she received a prophecy from God to take the boy off solid food and feed him only his mother's breast milk.