Built special camp where he allegedly sexually assaulted young girls he called “maidens”
Washington – A self-proclaimed pastor’s life on the run as a fugitive just got a little harder today after the U.S. Marshals Service added him to its 15 Most Wanted fugitive list.
Victor Arden Barnard, 53, is wanted by the Pine County Sheriff’s Office in Pine City, Minnesota, for 59 felony counts of criminal sexual assault stemming from allegations that he sexually abused young girls while acting as their pastor. The U.S. Marshals joined the manhunt for Barnard after he was charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
“The malicious crimes allegedly committed by Victor Barnard make him a significant threat to the community,” said U.S. Marshals Service Director Stacia Hylton. “The women and men of the U.S. Marshals are committed to locating and apprehending this vile fugitive so that he can finally face justice.”
In 2000, Barnard secured a large camp site near Finlayson, Minnesota, where he started River Road Fellowship, a church into which he recruited members from all over the country. He convinced several of his followers to allow their young daughters to live with him on the camp site. Barnard then allegedly created a separate housing area on the site and designated it as Shepherd’s Camp, where he housed these young girls and referred to them as maidens.
From 2000 to 2009, Barnard allegedly sexually assaulted some of the girls living in Shepard’s Camp. After some adult members began questioning his actions, Barnard moved his family and the church to the state of Washington. A number of his followers, including maidens, left with him.
Barnard was charged with the sexual assaults in April 2014, and has been a fugitive ever since. U.S. Marshals believe there is a chance he may have left the country, because he has strong ties to Spain. It is also believed Barnard continues to receive support from his followers and some of his young victims.
“Given the nature of his charges, he poses a significant threat to the community,” said Sharon Lubinski, U.S. Marshal of the District of Minnesota.
A reward of up to $25,000 is being offered for information leading directly to Barnard’s arrest. Anyone with information is urged to contact the nearest U.S. Marshals Service office or the U.S. Marshals Service Communications Center at 1-800-336-0102.