Posted at: 04/15/2014 10:23 AM
Updated at: 04/16/2014 1:39 PM
By: Megan Stewart
Authorities are conducting a nationwide manhunt for a Pine County minister who has been charged with 59 felony counts of criminal sexual conduct involving two young girls.
Authorities say they have been investigating 52-year-old Victor Arden Barnard while he was ministering to a religious group in northern Pine County.
Authorities issued a warrant on April 11 for Barnard, who was last known to be near Spokane in Washington state.
Anyone with information on Barnard is asked to call the Pine County Sheriff's Office Tip Line at 320-629-8342 or Chief Deputy Blackwell at 320-629-8380.
According to the criminal complaint, Barnard was the leader and minister of the River Road Fellowship, an offshoot of The Way International. In 2000, Barnard set up a group of young girls in a camp.
One of the victims was 13 years old when she and nine other females entered a special section Shepard's Camp called the Alamoth, meant for girls who wish to devote themselves to God, the complaint states. At the time, she thought it was a summer camp, but she eventually realized the move was intended to be permanent.
Barnard moved out of the house he shared with his wife and kids and moved into a residence at Shepard's Camp in Finlayson, Minn., the complaint said.
The victim told investigators she was 13 when Barnard first had sex with her. He told her he represented Christ and it was normal for them to have that kind of contact, the complaint said. The victim was also made to believe her parents were okay with Barnard having sex with her, the complaint said.
When the victim was 15 years old, she asked to leave the camp and Barnard became angry, the complaint said.
The complaint said Barnard would get mad if he felt people were going against what he wanted and he would sometimes hit the victim, leaving bruises. She eventually left the fellowship and moved to Pennsylvania with her parents in 2010.
Another victim who was part of the maiden's group came forward and said she was 12 years old when Barnard began sexually abusing her until she left the fellowship in 2009.
In September 2009, the fellowship to the state of Washington with Barnard. The group began to split up after Barnard admitted to having sex with multiple married women in the church.
Interviews with family members say they knew what was going on, but they did not do anything because they were intimidated by Barnard and the fellowship.