Mar 30, 2017

Inmate charged with severely beating imprisoned cult leader Victor Barnard, causing brain damage

Victor Barnard
The onetime cult leader in prison for raping girls suffered brain and lung injuries, broken bones.

Paul Walsh
Minneapolis Star Tribune
MARCH 30, 2017

Victor Barnard, the onetime religious cult leader serving a 30-year term for sexually assaulting two girls from among his followers, was severely beaten in his prison cell in east-central Minnesota in early January by another inmate who said the attack was divinely inspired, according to charges filed Thursday.

Violent career criminal Shane M. Kringen, 44, was charged with first-degree assault in Chisago County District Court in connection with the Jan. 8 attack.

When authorities led Kringen from that area of the prison, he explained that he "was doing God's work," the charging document read.

One of Barnard's attorneys, Marsh Halberg, said Barnard is now at another prison and still has difficulties from the assault.

"My law partner Dave Risk and I went to visit Mr. Barnard recently at Oak Park Heights," Halberg said. "He did not recognize us and called us by other names. ... He had no memory of the months held in custody in Pine County [jail] and had hearing and vision problems when trying to communicate with us."

Halberg said Barnard now resides in the medical wing, which is separate from the traditional prison section.

Injuries include collapsed lung

According to the criminal complaint:

Video from inside the Rush City prison showed Kringen enter the 55-year-old Barnard's cell shortly after Barnard went in. Kringen left about a minute later.

A corrections officer went in during a security check and found Barnard bleeding. He was taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul with broken bones in his face, rib fractures, facial cuts, traumatic brain injury, a collapsed lung and respiratory failure.

On Jan. 24, Kringen was read his rights by an investigator and declined to give a statement. A week later, prison officials confiscated a letter Kringen had written that acknowledged attacking Barnard. It said he stopped once Barnard was unconscious.

Barnard and his followers moved from the Twin Cities to rural Pine County in the 1990s to establish their own "utopia" — a self-sufficient community where members raised their own food, sewed their own clothes and funded the operation with a string of local businesses.

Barnard coaxed families in the River Road Fellowship to send their daughters to him, promising that the "maidens" would live lives of prayer and purity. Years later, the two girls turned to Pine County authorities for help.

Inmate's violent history

Kringen, whose last address outside of prison was in Crookston, has been in trouble with the law for violent offenses for virtually his entire life, including in western Wisconsin. His most serious convictions in Minnesota have been for third-degree criminal sexual conduct, numerous acts of assault, burglary, drug possession, criminal property damage and drunken driving.

He's currently incarcerated on convictions in Polk County for drug possession and witness tampering. Corrections records currently list his release date as Aug. 7, 2019, but a conviction for assaulting Barnard would change that.

In neighboring Wisconsin in August 2010, Kringen led St. Croix County sheriff's deputies on a high-speed chase from Hammond toward Hudson. He rammed county squad cars before he fled on foot and was apprehended by a K-9 officer. He was convicted and given a sentence of more than 10 years.

In 2001, he was convicted of assaulting a law enforcement officer in St. Croix County and given a five-year term.

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