Jacques Robidoux, 29, faced a life prison sentence for the 1999 death of his son, Samuel, just three days before the boy's first birthday. Robidoux stood with little expression on his face as the verdict was read, but in moments sat down at the defense table between his two lawyers and put his head down. He was later led out to jail.
The Superior Court jury deliberated about seven hours over two days before rejecting Robidoux's defense that he was just following orders from God as revealed by his sister, Michelle Mingo. A prime belief of the cult is that prophecies other members say they received from God are to be obeyed.
It was Mingo, 37, who told the small Attleboro, Mass.,-based cult that she had a "vision from God" that the infant should receive breast milk only from his mother, Karen Robidoux, even though he had already begun to eat solid food.
Jacques Robidoux had admitted on the stand earlier this week that he had no choice but to follow his sister's prophecy and rely only on breast milk to nourish the boy. Testimony during the trial suggested Mingo told the cult in March 1999 that God was unhappy that the mother was vain and thin, unlike other cult women who were relatively heavy-set. Mingo said God wanted Karen to go on a high-protein, high-fat diet, to drink a gallon of almond milk every day and to feed her son only breast milk. Unfortunately, the mother was again pregnant and unable to produce sufficient milk.
Karen Robidoux, 26, faces trial on a charge of second-degree murder while Mingo is to be tried as an accessory.
In closing arguments on Thursday, prosecutor Walter J. Shea said that Jacques Robidoux watched as his son's body withered away over 51 excruciating days and, knowing the boy was dying, "did nothing about it." He urged the jury not to allow the defendant to hide behind his religion and said the boy died a "horrifying, excruciating" death.
Defense attorney Francis M. O'Boy argued the boy actually died of scurvy, and tried to convince the jury that because of his religious beliefs Robidoux was unable to realize his son would probably die.
Shea said he was pleased with what he called a "just" verdict. O'Boy said he believed the proper verdict should have been involuntary manslaughter, and said he would appeal.
Watching his son's condition deteriorate, Robidoux testified he prayed for a miracle, or a resurrection if the boy died. Samuel Robidoux died in April 1999. His remains were buried with those of a stillborn infant cousin in a makeshift grave in remote Maine. The bodies were recovered some 18 months later after another cult member went to authorities.
The fundamentalist sect, founded by Robidoux's father, Roland, rejects modern medicine and other aspects of present-day society.