Search widens for cult leader accused in sex abuse


While hundreds of tips and dozens of sightings have been reported in the search for cult leader Victor Barnard, the 52-year-old former leader of the Minnesota-based River Road Fellowship remains at large. A nationwide warrant has been issued for Barnard’s arrest, and the latest information places him in the Spokane, Washington area.

FOX 9 reported that Barnard’s wife Stephanie left the family's $400,000 home in Spokane with her bags packed. That lead authorities in to speculate that Barnard might already be waiting for her in Brazil, where he has traveled in the past.

“There’s a lot of house hopping that has gone on. A lot of town hopping that has gone on and that’s just part of the pattern,” said Pine County Sheriff Robin Cole.

Barnard is facing 59 felony counts of criminal sexual abuse. A criminal complaint filed in Pine County details the allegations of two women who said they’d been selected as “maidens” by Barnard. They told investigators that Barnard had sex with them multiple times at a camp near Finlayson between 2000 and 2009. The women were 12 and 13 years old when the alleged assaults began.

Meanwhile, the Spokane Spokesman Review reported that Barnard’s driver’s license listed an address in Spokane. Lt. Shane Nelson of the Washington State Patrol told the newspaper that there was no indication that Barnard has been engaging in similar activity in Washington state.

“There’s no evidence of any reconstruction of a camp,” Nelson said.

Court documents indicate Barnard's associates who relocated to Spokane have not been forthcoming with information about Barnard’s whereabouts. The parents of a purported victim living in Spokane refused to allow a police investigator entry into their home, according to court documents.

These charges result from a multi-year investigation by the Pine County Sheriff's Office.

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