June 06, 2020

Nurse: Sect member uncooperative > Prosecutors suspect pregnant woman covering up death, unborn baby at risk

ATTLEBORO, Mass. – A pregnant member of a fundamentalist sect, suspected of covering up the death of her last baby, met Wednesday with a public health nurse in her back yard. But prosecutors said she was uncooperative and her unborn baby remains at risk.

Rebecca Corneau, who is 81/2 months pregnant, talked with nurse Beth Collins for about 15 minutes behind a grape arbor.

The nurse’s visits were ordered by a judge Tuesday after prosecutors argued Corneau should be placed in custody for the remainder of her pregnancy, or other steps should be taken to protect the health of the baby and mother.

Corneau refused to allow Collins into her house, and wouldn’t discuss her medical condition, according to Bristol County District Attorney Paul Walsh’s office.

“The well-being of the child continues to be at risk,” Walsh said in a statement, adding that two weeks ago Corneau was determined to be an unfit parent and had three other children taken away by the court.

Corneau vowed not to submit to an examination after Judge Kenneth P. Nasif ordered her to meet with the nurse daily. Prosecutors said she could be held in contempt of court.

Prosecutors planned to return to court Thursday morning to ask Nasif to clarify his order.

“Rebecca Corneau did today exactly what she indicated yesterday in court she would do,” Walsh said Wednesday. “We have no faith she will agree to even the most perfunctory examination.”

Despite the prosecutor’s misgivings, Nasif was satisfied the meeting complied with his order by speaking with the nurse, courthouse sources told The Associated Press.

“For today, we slid by,” the source said. “If she refuses to talk to (the nurse) tomorrow, then we might have a problem.”

Collins arrived at the gray duplex Corneau shares with other sect members at about 9:45 a.m., accompanied by two men. She was led through a gate to the back yard.

Corneau and Collins stood together, talking casually amid bright colored toys and swings used by children of sect members who once lived at the house, but have since been taken into state custody. Collins did not appear to examine Corneau.

“I really can’t say anything,” Collins said after leaving the home.

No one answered the door at the Corneau residence, though church music could be heard playing inside.

Nasif ruled two weeks ago that Corneau, 32, is an unfit mother, and placed her three children in state custody.

Corneau is one of 13 members of the Christian sect suspected of burying two young children in Baxter State Park in Maine last fall. Her son, Jeremiah, was thought to have been stillborn, but police have no proof since the fundamentalists file no birth records and do not use hospitals or doctors.

Prosecutors now say they have evidence the infant lived for several minutes, and that the boy’s death was preventable. At Walsh’s request, Dr. Eli Newberger of Children’s Hospital examined sect journals detailing their activities, including Jeremiah’s birth.

Walsh said Newberger’s analysis indicates the child was born with pink skin and was attempting to breathe. Walsh said the baby’s life could have been saved if his lungs were properly aspirated, a routine procedure in hospital births.

The other child, 10-month old Samuel Robidoux, allegedly starved to death after he stopped nursing. But prosecutors say that, by all accounts, the child was developing normally until the group stopped feeding him.

David Corneau, Jeremiah’s father, is among eight sect members behind bars for refusing to cooperate in an investigation into the sect.

The members could face charges ranging from improper disposal of a body to murder, even though there are no bodies as evidence. No charges have been filed.

Police have unsuccessfully searched the park several times for buried children.

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