Victor Arden Barnard, head of a Minnesota cult that preyed on young girls that he called “maidens,” was extradited from Brazil over the weekend and is expected to appear in Pine County District Court on Monday. He face 59 counts of first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct for rape and sexual abuse.
Barnard, 54, led the River Road Religious Fellowship in Finlayson, Minn. where he lived with 12- to 24-year-old girls, where he taught the girls that he was a Christ figure and encouraged them to have sex with him. According to a local CBS affiliate, one victim was sexually abused from 2000 to 2012.
After Barnard fled Minnesota, eventually making it to Brazil, that victim was able to report him. From CBS:
According to a Brazilian newspaper, Barnard was arrested in the country last February. He was found in a beach condo with a 33-year-old Brazilian woman.
The U.S. Marshals Service, which had placed Barnard on its Most Wanted list and had been searching for him since 2014, said it worked with Brazilian authorities to track Barnard down and arrest him. The extradition process took about a year.
He was extradited to Minnesota on Saturday.
“The return of Barnard marks the end of the extradition process and starts the prosecution phase of the complaint,” said Pine County Sheriff Jeff Nelson, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “The Sheriff’s Office looks forward to working with the Pine County Attorney’s Office to ensure a fair prosecution as we seek justice for the victims.”
Update (6:00 p.m.): On Monday, Barnard appeared in court where a judge set his bail at $1.5 million, under the condition he has no contact with two of his alleged victims, according to the Associated Press. The Pine County attorney Reese Frederickson asked for a $7 million bail, but Barnard’s attorney argued that he had already spent one year in a Brazilian prison and that his health had deteriorated.
From the AP:
Judge James Router set bail at $1.5 million with conditions including Barnard’s having no contact with the two women he allegedly abused starting when they were girls, surrendering his passport and being monitored by GPS. Barnard could also go free with no conditions if he posts $3 million.
Arrest photo via AP.