crimesider

Leader of Minn. "virgin camp" sought for rape of minors

Victor Barnard Washington State Patrol

A nationwide manhunt is on to find the self-styled "minister" charged with 59 counts of raping young girls who lived with him in a "Maiden's Group" set aside for virgins at the Minnesota compound he shared with his followers

Victor Barnard, 52, is accused of repeatedly raping two girls over a period of several years, beginning when one was 12 years old and the other 13. Chief Deputy Steve Blackwell of Minnesota's Pine County Sheriff's Office told CBS News' Crimesider that although the indictment only includes allegations brought by two young women, police suspect Barnard may have committed similar crimes against many more.

According to court documents, in Jan. 2012 a then-24-year-old woman contacted the Pine County Sheriff's Office to report that she had been sexually abused by Barnard between the ages of 12-24.

The woman, referred to in court documents as "B", said that her family joined Barnard's "River Road Fellowship" in 2000 and she was among a group of 10 girls invited to live with Barnard as part of a so-called "Maiden's Group" at his lodge in a secluded area of the communal property. The arrangement was apparently supposed to be for the summer, but ended up being her permanent home.

"'B' said that when she was thirteen years old, Barnard first engaged in penile-vaginal penetration with her," according to the probable cause statement in the case. "Barnard repeatedly preached to her that he represented Christ in the flesh...and that it was normal for Barnard to have sex with her because it was God's Word."

"B" told police that she did not want to have sex with Barnard and that she protested and cried, but that over the next nine years, she estimated he had intercourse with her one to three times per month:

"Barnard would call her to the lodge when he wanted to have sexual intercourse with her....She said the other girls...were also called to the lodge to see Barnard in the same manner that she was but they never discussed what happened there. Barnard had told her many times not to tell anyone about having sex with him..."

In 2001, according to the documents, Barnard told "B's" parents that he might begin having sex with her. In an interview with police many years later, "B's" father told police that he "felt pressured to not say anything against Barnard...Looking back...he knew Barnard had sex with his daughter when she was still a child..."

The documents also tell of a second young woman, referred to as "C," who told investigators a story similar to B's. "C" alleges that she too was sent to the "Maidens Group" as a child and that Barnard began having sex with her when she was 12. She said that in 2001, she participated in a ceremony Barnard called the "Salt Covenant" where she and other girls pledged "to remain unmarried and virgins and loyal to Barnard for their entire lives."

Chief Deputy Blackwell says that as the girls got older and "break free, another girl turns 11 or 12" and was brought into the "Maidens Group."

According Blackwell, Barnard and some of his followers fled Minnesota for Washington State around the time the first woman came forward with her allegations.In Nov. 2012, an investigator from the Pine County Sheriff's Office traveled to the Spokane area where Barnard and members of the group had reportedly moved, but were unable to interview him and have now issued a warrant for his arrest. If convicted, Barnard faces multiple 30-year prison terms.

Blackwell says that Barnard has been flagged by Homeland Security.

Anyone who may have information as to the whereabouts of Victor Barnard, please call Washington State Police Detective Ryan Spangler at (509) 227-6644 or the Pine County SO tip line at (320) 629-8342.

  • Julia Dahl

    Julia Dahl writes about crime and justice for CBSNews.com

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