BRIDGEWATER, Mass. (CBS Boston) - Jacques Robidoux walked into the visitors' center at the Old Colony Correctional Center with a polite greeting. "How are you doing?" He was hardly recognizable from the last time the public saw him.
Back then, he wasn't an inmate, he was a cult leader. He defiantly faced a judge in 2000, accused of starving his son to death. "He told other members of his cult to ignore Samuel's pain," said a prosecutor during his arraignment.
It was in prison, where Robidoux says he finally faced the truth.
"I essentially became a compartmentalized sociopath," he said. "Once the realization came that 'Holy God, I killed my own son. How did this even happen?' So then everything begins to start. Everything begins to unravel."
The child was about a year old when another member of the Attleboro-based sect called "The Body" had a vision. In order to save Samuel and another member's unborn child from certain hell, Samuel was not to eat any solid food, only breastmilk. That was something his mother could not produce at that point.
"It didn't take long, you know as I was holding him he was crying. He was crying because he was hungry," said Robidoux, visibly emotional. "So as I'm holding him and he's crying and I'm, I'm crying, then of course the thought comes that well in order for me to fulfill this will of God, I have to be strong for my family. I have to be strong for Samuel," he said.
Was there a limit, where he would have stepped in and said, this is not right?
"In order to serve God, in order to save my family, in order to save my son who essentially was dying, and save the child in the womb, I had to go through with this," he said.
"He knows now that God was not involved in that decision about Samuel. But at the time he certainly believed it," said counselor Judy Pardon.
For years, she and her husband, Bob Pardon, ran a treatment center in Lakeville for people who escape from cults. When investigators unearthed Samuel's body secretly buried in Maine along with a cousin who had died at childbirth, the court appointed the Pardons temporary guardians of some of the cult's other children.
The Pardons believe there are other groups like The Body that currently exist in society.
"Absolutely," said Bob Pardon. "Society has become more destabilized via the pandemic."
Other members of The Body have dispersed. But from behind prison walls, Robidoux is focused on helping others avoid the trap he says his own mind got tangled up in.
"That big unraveled ball of yarn," he said. "It's taken quite a few years to unravel it, but every time I do, it's freeing."
As he serves a life sentence for the murder of his son, Robidoux now participates in virtual group counseling sessions for other former cult members.
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