TAUNTON, Mass. – A woman accused of starving her baby to death to fulfill a religious prophecy broke down in tears Friday as she listened to a defense psychologist recount her description of desperately trying to breast-feed her son in the final days of his life.
Karen Robidoux, 28, sobbed so uncontrollably that Taunton Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Donovan called a 20-minute recess during the testimony of Ronald Ebert, a forensic psychologist who examined Robidoux during 12 sessions starting in December 2002.
Ebert was the first defense witness in Robidoux’s trial for second-degree murder in the 1999 death of her son, Samuel, after the prosecution rested its case Friday. Prosecutors allege the boy was starved over 51 days, dying just days before his first birthday.
Robidoux was a member of a tiny, Attleboro-based religious sect called “The Body,” which rejects modern medicine.
Ebert said Robidoux told him she began withholding solid food from her 10-month-old son Samuel after her sister-in-law told her about a message she received from God: Karen was “too vain” and God planned to punish her by killing one of the twins she believed she was pregnant with at the time.
Several months later, Robidoux gave birth to a baby boy; she had not been pregnant with twins.
Robidoux told Ebert that she was told she could save the unborn twin if she put herself on a high-fat diet and fed Samuel only her own breast milk.
“If she wasn’t good, God would take her baby,” Ebert said. “She had to do what they told her to do.”
But Ebert said because Robidoux was pregnant, she was producing only trace amounts of breast milk. She told him she continued to try to breast-feed Samuel every hour, as called for by the prophecy. He said that Robidoux told him that Samuel became gaunt and weak, and was so hungry that he was literally eating flesh from her nipples.