A fugitive Minnesota cult leader, who is wanted in connection with a long list of sex charges in the U.S. was arrested in Brazil Saturday, according to media reports.
Victor Arden Barnard, 53, was arrested late Friday by Brazil's military police at a condominium in the beach resort of Pipa, on the southern coast of Rio Grande do Norte. Also arrested was a 33-year-old Brazilian woman, who police said was giving cover to Barnard, Brazil's Globo News reported.
Barnard is wanted in the U.S. on 59 counts of sexual assault. A criminal complaint alleges that he sexually abused two girls, beginning from the time they were aged 12 and 13, for up to a decade.
In the mid 1990s, when Barnard was a Minnesota pastor, he set up an isolated religious community called “Shepard’s Camp”, in the town of Finlayson. and convinced some of his followers to send their first-born daughters to live with him there, where they were known as “the maidens”.
The girls lived under Barnard's supervision, and sewed, cooked and cleaned for him. He reportedly told the girls that he was Christ on Earth. "Everything that a wife would do, they did for him," Ruth Johnson, a former member of Barnard's River Road Fellowship told CNN.
One of the victims who reported Barnard to the authorities was Lindsay Tornambe, who joined “the maidens” aged 13, and subsequently told authorities that Barnard raped her soon afterward, and continued to sexually abuse her for the next nine years.
“I am ready to have him locked up,” Tornambe told the Star Tribune. “As soon as I got the news, I started crying. It feels so surreal. I knew the day would come, but it finally came and it’s almost numbing.”
The U.S. Marshals Service confirmed Barnard's arrest Saturday, and the Brazilian Supreme Court has reportedly already signed an extradition warrant with Barnard's name on it, according to KMSP News.
He was one of the U.S. Marshals 15 most-wanted fugitives, with a reward of $25,000 offered for information leading to his arrest.
Investigators believe Barnard abused other girls but have been unable to get others to come forward. Most of the criminal counts against him carry maximum sentences of 30 years in prison, the Associated Press reported.