Ex-Sect Member Convicted in Son's Death

A former member of a religious sect was cleared of murder charges Tuesday but convicted of assault and battery for starving her infant son to death to fulfill a prophecy.

Karen Robidoux was set free after the verdict because she has already spent nearly three years in state custody. Judge Elizabeth Donovan sentenced Robidoux to 2 1/2 years in prison on the assault and battery charge.

"It hasn't fully hit me yet," Robidoux said outside the courtroom. "I'm just glad that the nightmare door is shut."

Robidoux and her husband Jacques were members of a tiny religious sect that rejects modern medicine. After another sect member told them about a message she received from God, they began withholding solid food from their son, Samuel. The baby died in 1999 just days shy of his first birthday.

Robidoux's defense lawyer had argued that she was brainwashed and tortured by her husband, Jacques, and other members of the group.

But prosecutor Walter Shea said in his closing argument that the real victim was the baby.

"What's confusing about the verdict is how they could find that she did in fact take part in the assault, but not to the extent that includes the death of the child," Shea said after the verdict was announced.

After nearly two weeks of trial, the jury deliberated for parts of two days before reaching its verdict.

Prosecutors had sought a second-degree murder charge for his wife, but jurors also had the option of finding her guilty of manslaughter or assault and battery.

Jacques Robidoux, was convicted of first-degree murder in 2002 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Robidoux's lawyer, Joseph Krowski, called just two witnesses to the stand - both forensic psychologists who examined her at a state hospital.

An unwed mother at 15, she grew up in a strict religious family and was married off to Jacques Robidoux, who along with his father was the leader of the sect. The group, called "The Body," isolated itself from society and modern culture, shunning doctors, banks, televisions, radios and newspapers.