A ” white” minister who dressed like Jesus and presided over virgins he called the “maidens” faces 59 counts of criminal sexual conduct involving underage girls he abused for years at a Minnesota religious camp.
Fugitive Victor Arden Barnard, 52, is believed to be somewhere near Seattle or Tacoma, authorities said. A nationwide warrant has been issued for his arrest.
The self-proclaimed “messiah” ran a compound in Minnesota’s northern Pine County, where ministered to a group of women and girls he referred to as “maidens.”
For several years, he routinely abused two girls sent to live with him at the ages of 12 and 13, according to a criminal complaint filed against him.
The Pine County Sheriff’s office has been investigating the pedophile cult leader for more than two years. The charges were filed last week.
Deputies combed through boxes of evidence and spent months trying to break through webs of secrets kept by members of the secret group.
“The really difficult element about going in and trying to investigate this is that they’re a very tight religious sect,” said Chief Deputy Steven Blackwell.
“It’s very difficult to get answers and information from that kind of community.”
The probe began in 2012, when a 24-year-old woman stepped forward to say she had been assaulted by the “white” pedophile for 19 years, beginning at age 13.
Referred to as “B,” the woman said she and her family joined the River Road Fellowship camp near Finlayson, Minn., in 1998.
Two years later, leader Barnard established the “Maidens Group,” a following of young virgins who were to remain devout and never marry.
About 10 girls and women comprised the group, according to the recently filed criminal complaint. The girls went with their parents’ permission.
They lived in a place called “Shepherd’s Camp,” where the “white” child rapist also resided, apart from this wife and children.
“Barnard repeatedly preached to (B) that he represented Christ in the flesh, that Jesus Christ had Mary Magdalene and other women who followed him, that King Solomon slept with many concubines, that the firstborn child was to be sacrificed to God, and that it was normal for Barnard to have sex with her because it was in God’s Word,” the complaint states.
A second woman eventually told a similar story to Minnesota investigators after talking to “B” and sharing stories of abuse. The two decided to report their experiences to authorities.