Alleged US Cult Leader Arrested in Brazil

Victor Arden Barnard accused of child sex abuse
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 2, 2015 1:48 PM CST
Alleged Cult Leader Arrested in Brazil
In this photo released by the Rio Grande do Norte state security secretary, Victor Arden Barnard sits in a police station after being detained in Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 27, 2015.   (AP Photo/Rio Grande do Norte State Security Secretary)

An alleged cult leader on the US Marshals' "Most Wanted" list who reportedly had kept a group of girls as young as 12 at his disposal in Minnesota—and who has been accused by two of the girls (now adults) of sexual abuse—was arrested in Brazil on Friday, the AP reports. Victor Arden Barnard, 53, was detained in northeastern Brazil, along with a 33-year-old woman, and now faces extradition to the US, where he'll face 59 counts of criminal sexual misconduct. He had run the River Road Fellowship in a rural area north of Minneapolis, where a former member tells CNN he kept 10 or so young girls and women as his "Maidens" to serve him, including doing all the cooking, cleaning, and sewing. One woman says Barnard sexually assaulted her between the ages of 12 and 20; the second woman says the same happened to her from 13 to 22. He disappeared from Minnesota in 2010 and arrived in Brazil in 2012.

"Everything that a wife would do, [the Maidens] did for him," Ruth Johnson, the mother of the second accuser, Lindsay Tornambe, tells CNN. Now an ex-member, Johnson says that in 2000, Barnard convinced a few of his congregation's members to offer up their firstborn daughters to live with him on the campsite and to fulfill their "biblical obligation" to have sex with him, as NBC News notes; he also told the girls he "represented Christ in the flesh," the two complainants told detectives. Investigators add that Barnard's pull over sect members was so powerful that it was difficult to extract information out of anyone involved with the church. "I am ready to have him locked up," Tornambe—who told Pine County detectives that Barnard had started raping her soon after she joined the Maidens group—tells the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "I knew the day would come, but … it’s almost numbing." (Kehla Backman wrote for Gawker about how she and her family escaped Barnard's spell.)

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