Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Staff reports
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Barnard agrees to 30-year plea deal

Two 15-year terms to be served consecutively, other charges dropped


Less than four months after appearing in Pine County Court on 58 counts of criminal sexual conduct, the former leader of an alleged cult in Pine County shocked most court observers by pleading guilty to two of the counts, which means he is facing 30 years in prison.

Victor Arden Barnard appeared before Judge P. Hunter Anderson October 11 and told him he agreed to the plea deal, which also had the support from two victims who first alerted authorities of Barnard’s crimes while he was leader of River Road Fellowship, once based just west of Finlayson.

While the sentencing was set for October 28, Barnard agreed to two 15-year terms on two of the counts, which must be served consecutively. All other charges are being dropped. He will receive credit for time served in a Brazil prison.

Barnard, who was 41 when he sexually assaulted the girls, is now 55 and will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

Barnard was in jail on $3 million bail without conditions.

The charges against Barnard by the two victims state they were raped by Barnard at 12 and 13 years of age when they were chosen for a group of girls called “Maidens,” a group of about 10 girls and women. One of the victims, who was then 13, said within a month Barnard raped her. The same woman reported Barnard said it was his way of being able to show “God’s love.”

When Barnard was not found after he left for Washington, the story became of national interest following its appearance on the CNN Show, “The Hunt with John Walsh.”


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