Jul 6, 2016

Accused Cult Leader Charged with 59 Counts Criminal Sexual Conduct


Matt Belanger


A hearing took place Tuesday in Pine County District Court for 54-year-old Victor Barnard, who is accused of sexually abusing girls who were followers in his alleged cult.

Barnard was arrested in Brazil about a year ago and was recently extradited to Minnesota.


What is Barnard Charged with?

Victor Barnard is charged with 59 counts of criminal sexual conduct. Prosecutors say he was the leader of the River Road Fellowship in Finlayson, Minnesota. He is accused of molesting female minors during a 10-year period.

The girls and women were part of a group called "maidens" that were kept at a camp. According to the charges against him, the girls viewed Barnard as a "rock star" and fawned over him. Investigators say he told one 13-year-old girl that "it was normal for (him) to have sex with her because it was in God's Word."


What is Barnard's Lawyer Saying?

Barnard’s defense attorneys spoke after the hearing, which only lasted a few minutes. They outlined some concerns they have about the prosecution’s case, including questions about how Barnard’s extradition from Brazil was handled. They also said they believe it’s possible some of the charges fall outside of the state of limitations.

“We don’t know what was going on in those time frames so that’s an issue to us,” attorney Marsh Halberg said. “So, we are looking at the extradition process during the year we are looking at the statute of limitations issue and just a lot of other things that are out there.”


What Else Happened at the Hearing Tuesday?

There was an interesting moment in court where an attorney alerted the judge to Barnard’s request for a King James Version of the bible for his jail cell, saying he would prefer that over the Gideon Bible the jail already provided. The judge encouraged them to continue working with the jail directly to see if one could be shipped directly to the jail to avoid any concern about contraband being allowed into the facility.


Timeline of Events

April 15, 2014 - Authorities begin a nationwide manhunt for Barnard.

April 18, 2014 - The Washington State Patrol acts on tips as they checked locations in the Spokane area for Barnard.

August 13, 2014 - Washington State Patrol detectives say Barnard was reportedly seen leaving a fast-food restaurant in Raymond, heading toward nearby Aberdeen.

Nov. 26, 2014 - The U.S. Marshals Service added Barnard to its 15 Most Wanted Fugitives list.

Feb. 27, 2015 - Barnard was arrested in Pipa, Rio Grande do Norte - the northernmost part of Brazil.

March 4, 2015 - Brazil police say Barnard was able to elude a manhunt because of the support of a local woman, a longtime friend who traveled with him and supported him.

March 28, 2016 - The Pine County Attorney says the extradition of Barnard will proceed.

May 19, 2016 - Sources tell KSTP Barnard was not extradited because a Brazilian court asked the Pine County prosecutors for a sentence of no more than 30 years.

June 18, 2016 - Barnard is extradited and booked into the Pine County jail.

June 20, 2016  - A Pine County District Court judge set conditional bail for Barnard at $1.5 million and unconditional bail at $3 million.

What Happens Next?

Barnard remains in custody. He’s being held in a different part of the jail with inmates with similar charges and convictions. He’ll be in court again on September 1 and could enter a plea at that time.




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