Judge lets sect parents name baby in custody

Source: The Providence Journal Publication date: 2001-01-11 Arrival time: 2001-01-12

ATTLEBORO - The baby born in custody to religious sect member Rebecca Corneau was legally named yesterday when a Juvenile Court judge allowed a motion that the 3-month-old be given the name chosen by her parents. Because the child remains in state custody, all legal matters involving her, including choosing a name, must be reviewed by the court. The baby girl and her three sisters are in the custody of the state Department of Social Services and living with an aunt.

The girl's parents, David P. and Rebecca A. Corneau, of 196-198 Knight Ave., both members of an insular religious sect, were in court yesterday for a status conference as part of the case that will decide whether the baby is returned to the Corneaus or placed for adoption. Judge Kenneth P. Nasif set a Sept. 12 trial date in the matter. Judge Nasif has terminated the Corneaus' parental rights and awarded the state permanent custody of their three older daughters in order to make them available for adoption. Nasif has declared the Corneaus and all other sect members with children unfit as parents.

After Rebecca Corneau refused to discuss her pregnancy with a court-appointed guardian, the judge ordered her confined at a facility for pregnant inmates until the baby was born, which was Oct. 16. Social services has said it wants the Corneaus to leave the sect, to obtain counseling and to care for their children according to societal standards before getting the girls back. "The system wants the Corneaus to cooperate with the exit counseling and the DSS proposal for how to deal with their child," David Corneau's lawyer, Robert A. George, said yesterday. "The Corneaus are not going to cooperate with that kind of demand." The attorney for the family is trying to get the other children returned to their parents. "Their lifestyle does not prevent them from being good parents to this child. I don't think there's any doubt they're caring, loving people," George said. "Whether or not Robidoux's son died is a completely different issue."

Three sect members are in jail facing charges in the death of Samuel Robidoux, who prosecutors say died of starvation in April 1999, three days before his first birthday. His parents, Jacques D. and Karen E. Robidoux, face murder charges, while Jacques's sister, G. Michelle Mingo, faces an accessory charge to assaulting the boy. Though the Corneaus were never charged in Samuel's death, prosecutors investigated what happened to their son, Jeremiah Corneau, who died in August 1999. David Corneau told investigators that Jeremiah was stillborn. Prosecutors said the baby would have lived if the Corneaus had sought medical care.