Those close to Attleboro cult mom Karen Robidoux say she's finally emerged from the fog of the brainwashing sect that swallowed 14 years of her life.
But on Wednesday, she will go on trial for allegedly systematically starving her son to death to fulfill a bizarre cult prophecy nearly five years ago.
"In light of what she's been through, I would have predicted she'd be in far worse shape," cult deprogrammer Robert Pardon said of Robidoux, who is charged with second-degree murder for the 1999 death of her son, Samuel. "She is really coming to grips with what occurred to her. She is as much a victim as Samuel."
Robidoux's husband, Jacques Robidoux, is already serving a life sentence without parole after being convicted last year of first degree murder for starving the couple's 18-month-old son. Karen Robidoux has since distanced herself from the Attleboro-based fundamentalist sect - known as The Body. She is free on $100,000 bail and living in a southeastern Massachusetts group home for people who've fled high-control cults.
"She's cut off all the group members. She has no contact with them at all," said Pardon, a counselor who works with Robidoux and will testify at her trial.
Jury selection is slated to start Wednesday in Taunton Superior Court, nearly five years after the horrific case burst into the headlines.
The tragedy began as a missing person case, but eventually turned to murder when cult member David Corneau led authorities to a makeshift gravesite in upstate Maine where they found the remains of Samuel Robidoux and Corneau's stillborn son, Jeremiah. Corneau, who is still a member of the sect, was never charged.
Also charged in Samuel's death is Jacques Robidoux's sister, Michelle Mingo, who allegedly delivered a "vision from God" that ordered the couple to stop feeding the 10-month-old boy solid food. Mingo's vision allegedly limited Karen Robidoux to breast feeding the boy, despite her inability to do so since she already was pregnant. Mingo faces accessory charges.
Karen Robidoux's attorney, Joseph Krowski, plans to use a "battered woman's defense," alleging the group used coercion and intimidation to force his client to go along with the deadly plan. Krowski did not return repeated calls.
Karen Robidoux, 28, joined the sect when she was just 14 but quickly became a "black sheep," because she gave birth to two children from two ex-boyfriends outside the group, Pardon said. She and Jacques Robidoux, who is the son of group leader Roland Robidoux, had one other child after having Samuel. That child has since been taken by the state Department of Social Services along with several other group members' children.
Pardon says Karen Robidoux tried to feed Samuel over the group's objections and is not a "cold-blooded killer."
Jacques Robidoux, who maintains ties to the sect from behind the prison walls, testified during his trial that his wife did try to feed the boy.
"Karen was a very good mother. She tried to feed and care for her child as best she could, but wasn't allowed to," Pardon said. "Not only has she lost all of her children, but she's dealing with the death of her son. It's a very sad situation."