Judge delays sect member's murder trial

The murder trial of religious sect member Karen Robidoux, charged with allowing her infant son to starve to death, was delayed yesterday when a judge ordered a psychiatric evaluation.

Robidoux, charged with second-degree murder in the death of her son Samuel, was scheduled to go on trial Jan. 6. Instead, the judge will use that date for a status report on the evaluation.

Robidoux, who has been in custody since her November 2000 indictment, was sent to Taunton State Hospital yesterday.

Defense attorney Joseph F. Krowski claims Robidoux is not criminally responsible because she was brainwashed by sect members, including her husband, Jacques. He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in June.

''She was smothered in evil,'' Krowski said yesterday. ''This young woman was embroiled in a circumstance I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.''

Jacques Robidoux, a leader of a small sect known as The Body, testified at his trial in June that he watched Samuel waste away over 51 days after his sister received a prophecy that they should withhold solid food from the child.

Samuel died April 26, 1999, three days shy of his first birthday. His body was later found in Maine's Baxter State Park.

Bristol County prosecutors allege that Karen Robidoux, 27, knew what she was doing and should have helped her son. The district attorney's office did not return a phone message yesterday.

Krowski, who said he is not trying to stall, moved for a defense-funded psychiatric evaluation of Robidoux, saying that she has been increasingly depressed. Bristol Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Donovan then ordered a 20-day evaluation by state doctors.

''The areas of competency [to be evaluated] would be whether she understands the process and ... whether she is capable of assisting you in preparation of her defense,'' Donovan told Krowski.

It's unlikely that the evaluation, and possible further evaluations, would indefinitely postpone the trial, Krowski said.

''If it's forever, it's forever, but I don't think that would be the case here,'' he said. ''People stabilize. The charges don't go away. They just wait until the problems stabilize, and then you go to trial.''

Jacques Robidoux testified in June that his wife wanted to feed the boy solid food, but he wouldn't allow it, saying that would be violating instructions from God.

If convicted, she faces life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years.

Prosecutors say Jacques Robidoux's sister, Michelle Mingo, who was also in the sect, concocted the prophecy that God had told her that Karen Robidoux needed to overcome her vanity and feed her child only her own breast milk.

Mingo, who is charged as being an accessory to assault and battery on a child, is also awaiting trial. Both Mingo and Karen Robidoux have pleaded not guilty.

The hearing was held in Suffolk Superior Court, where Donovan is temporarily seated.