Longtime cult leader pleads guilty to sexually assaulting teens

He was accused of ruling over a camp of young girls he called "maidens."
Publish date:

A cult leader who was the subject of an international manhunt has pleaded guilty to sexual assault.

Victor Barnard, 55, was the longtime leader of the River Road Fellowship in Finlayson, Minnesota. He pleaded guilty to two charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Pine County District Court Tuesday, court documents show.

Pine County officials brought 59 charges against Barnard in 2014. Prosecutors said he ruled over a camp of young girls he called "maidens," abusing at least two girls for nearly a decade starting when they were just 12 and 13 years old.

The charges against Barnard prompted a nationwide warrant for his arrest, and he was soon placed on the U.S. Marshals' 15 most wanted fugitives list. In February 2015 he was arrested in Brazil, before eventually being extradited back to Minnesota.

As part of Tuesday's plea deal, which both his victims agreed to, Barnard is expected to be sentenced to 30 years in prison at a hearing on Oct. 28, court records note.

Following Tuesday's deal, Barnard's attorney said he took the plea deal to spare his victims – and his remaining followers – the ordeal of a trial, Star Tribune reporter Jennifer Brooks tweeted.

Next Up