Brazilian media: Accused MN cult leader attempted suicide in jail


A Minnesota cult leader jailed in South America on sex crime charges attempted to take his own life, reports say.

Victor Barnard, the subject of an international manhunt since he fled the United States several years ago, has been in Brazilian custody since his capture there in February. He was awaiting extradition to Pine County, Minnesota, where he was accused of molesting young girls who belonged to his "River Road Fellowship," a religious sect located in an isolated area near Finlayson.

After escaping Minnesota when allegations began to surface, the U.S. Marshals placed him on their list of the 15 Most Wanted Fugitives.

He was eventually found living in a woman's apartment in Rio Grande do Norte, about 1,300 miles from Rio De Janeiro.

Now, news media in the South American country say he attempted to hang himself with bedsheets in his jail cell last Friday, according to FOX 9, which says he remains in an intensive care unit.

The Star Tribune says there is no information about his current condition. The paper notes not even authorities in Pine County – where officials are working to extradite him – know anything beyond these initial reports.

According to CNN's "The Hunt," which covered the Barnard story, the former self-styled pastor tended to a flock of 10 or 15 church members, at least one of whom moved from as far as 100 miles away to live in Barnard's rural camp.

The network goes on to say Barnard was accused of convincing his congregation to "hand over" their daughters – whom he called "maidens" – to live with him in seclusion.

Barnard is facing 59 felony sexual misconduct charges in Minnesota. He maintains his innocence.

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