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

By Tim Franklin
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Barnard's victims' lives changed forever


Barnard's victims, Jess Schlinsky and Lyndsay Tornambe (seated), both once considered Barnard's "maidens," take questions from reporters after sentencing. Also pictured is Pine County Attorney Reese Frederickson, the prosecuting attorney.

Victor Arden Barnard, 55, will likely live the rest of his life in prison following his sentencing on Friday, in which he was sentenced to 30 years.

A little over two weeks ago, Barnard shocked most courtroom observers by pleading guilty to two charges of criminal sexual conduct, and also agreed to serve 30 years. The courtroom was packed on Friday as victims of Barnard, the former leader of River Road Fellowship once based west of Finlayson, gave statements to the court and Judge P. Hunter Anderson.

As expected, Barnard was sentenced to serve two consecutive 15-year terms. If Barnard earns good time in prison and counting time already served, Barnard will spend the next 18 years at least in a state facility.

Two of Barnard's victims, Lyndsay Tornambe and Jess Schlinsky, gave powerful victim impact statements to the court, with the support of sexual assault victim advocates behind them. According to Pine County Attorney Reese Frederickson, these two victims are just the tip of the iceberg, and the number of juvenile victims could be close to 20.

Lyndsay Tornambe's story

Tornambe said her abuse started at the age of 13 when Barnard asked her a question about sex and struck her across the face. Later that night, he asked her to come back, and said having sex with Barnard was a way she could show Barnard God's love. Along with the sexual assaults, Tornambe also said she was also humiliated and beaten by Barnard.

"Victor told me constantly that having sex with me was a way of knowing God's love. He assured me that even though he was having sex with me, I could remain a virgin spiritually. By taking care of Victor and dedicating my life to him and Jesus Christ, I would have a special place in heaven," Tornambe told the court.

"Over time, with constant physical abuse and sexual abuse, I lost my identity. I lost sight of who I really was. I became a servant, always attentive to pleasing him and never disappointing him for fear of being humiliated or abused in front of the church. My parents gave me up to him and they willingly abandoned me, sacrificing my happiness, future and innocence for their salvation. Why my parents didn't do anything to protect me, I will never know or understand," she said.

Tornambe said she eventually left Barnard, but to this day, even as an adult, realizes "my parents sold me like cheap property to a narcissistic predator."

"The emotional and mental trauma I went through has resulted in PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), nightmares, trust issues, abandonment issues, feelings of guilt that it was all my fault, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, suicide, anxiety and many other things. For days and weeks all I wanted to do is cry, and I didn't know why," she said.

Tornambe said her life was at her lowest point after she left the church, and considered taking her own life, but after speaking to another relative, decided to work with federal law enforcement to help bring Barnard back from Brazil to face charges.

"My children will never feel they are not good enough. Or pretty enough. Or skinny enough. My children will not be punished for smiling or being excited about life. They will not be spit on or shamed for being moral or upstanding. Although I am better and continue to heal, I still struggle," she told the judge.

"How powerful is a man who rapes a child? How Christian is a man who hurts children? Does he know the answer? It's simple. Sex offenders. He said he wouldn't accept being labeled as a sex offender. He said that he doesn't need treatment. He believed he was above the laws of the land and of God. But he is wrong. He is sick. He is a sex offender, pathetic and cowardly," Tornambe continued.

"I have the whole United States system of law enforcement and justice behind me. What does he have? A cult of perverts and cowards. I am his downfall ... Whether Victor accepts it or not, he will be known all over the world for eternity as a sexual predator and offender of young children. But as for me, I can now say good-bye to Victor - forever.

Jess Schlinsky's story

Schlinsky noted that Barnard's crime against her was 16 years ago, and because she was raised to revere Barnard, she was afraid to tell him no, even though she did the first time.

"He stole my innocence, my childhood, my virginity. He stole my chance at any resemblance of a normal life. I lived in constant fear of him," Schlinsky told the court.

Her life revolved around pleasing him, and when she didn't, Schlinsky said Barnard would slap her and humiliate her in front of her peers.

From 36 days before she was 13, up until she was 20, Schlinsky said Barnard repeatedly assaulted her. She tried to get pregnant at 14, hoping that Barnard would send her away, but that was the year Barnard got a vasectomy.

She tried to run away three times, but she did not know where to go, and returned.

"I felt pressured from my parents to join the 'maidens,' and I feared that if I left, I would disappoint them. I had been cut off from my extended family and I didn't know where to turn," she told the court.

In 2001, Barnard had a meeting with Schlinsky and her parents, and said he may or may not choose to be intimate with her, and asked for their blessings, which they gave. Her parents did not know, however, that he had already begun his "intimacy," Schlinsky said four months prior.

"He would drill us, the 'maidens,' on how to answer questions should we ever be asked. He would say to tell the police, government or any authorities that he only treated us with love. If they asked if he hit us, we were to answer that he only treated us with love," Schlinsky said in court.

If any "maiden" told what occurred, Schlinsky said, it would bring judgment, pain and damnation on his victims.

courtesy Pine County Attorney's Office

Pictured is the four plex the girls lived in after they became Barnard's "maidens." The house is separated from the rest of the camp down a long road, which is in the woods and on Elbow Lake. Three girls lived in each of the top two units. Two girls lived in each of the bottom units. To the left of the house is a flat area set up for an RV with hookups. Barnard would park his RV there and according to testimony, have a different "maiden" serve him every day and night. All other adults were not allowed.

"Victor stating that he wanted to avoid a trial to spare Lindsay and myself pain is cowardly," Schlinsky said. "In not going to trial, he is only sparing himself the pain and humiliation of the details of his abuse becoming public."

In June 2008, Schlinsky said he asked all the "maidens" whether they wanted to be married or stay with Barnard. Schlinsky said she wanted to be married, and he was "sad and disappointed," asking to "please give it three more years," before a decision was made.

Schlinsky moved out the next day, and moved to Wisconsin. In doing so, she lost all the family she had known since a pre-teen. She told the court her life started falling apart once she confronted her past.

"Depression consumed me. I attempted suicide three times in four months. I began self-harming. I was ashamed of my past. I blamed myself for not leaving sooner. I was hospitalized three times," she told the court.

Schlinsky said she suffers to this day from what Barnard did to her, including PTSD "as a result of Victor's sexual, emotional, verbal and physical abuse."

She said her family was torn apart by what happened, and they called her a liar, and even disowned her.

"What Victor Barnard did has affected me and every part of my life," she said.


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