Nationwide Manhunt Underway for Preacher Accused of 59 Counts of Sex Abuse

Law enforcement agents across the United States are seeking 52-year-old Victor Barnard, a religious leader accused of molesting young girls in his congregation. Barnard, who is charged in Pine County, Minnesota, was last seen in Spokane, Washington, according to Washington State Police. Barnard was charged with 59 felony sex crimes after a two-year investigation that began when two young women came forward saying they had been repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted by their minister beginning when they were 12 and 13 years old. Police say Barnard was the leader of a church called the River Road Fellowship. One of his accusers says that when her family joined the church in 2000, she became one of about 10 girls in a group Barnard referred to as "The Maidens," or "Alamoth." Alamoth, a musical term for virgins, is found in the Bible in Psalms. The woman told police that she and the Maidens were invited to join Barnard at his lodge in a secluded part of the communal property for what they believed would be a summer camp. Instead, Barnard's lodge became their permanent home until they reached adulthood and left the group. She said that Barnard preached to her that he was Jesus incarnate, and that it was God's word for her to have sex with him. She says that he began having sex with her when she was only 13 years old, and that he sexually abused her and raped her several times a month until she moved away at the age of 22. The woman says that in 2011, a year after she left the group, another of the former Maidens contacted her and told her that she had endured similar sexual abuse. The two women went to police with their allegations against Barnard. The second accuser says that Barnard began raping her when she was only 12 years old, and that she and other Maidens were forced to perform a ritual in which they swore to remain unmarried and loyal to Barnard for the rest of their lives. Ironically, River Road Fellowship fell apart in 2011 or 2012 after Barnard admitted that he had been having affairs with married women in the church. After the church split, Barnard moved to Washington. Both of his accusers, identified only as "B" and "C" in the criminal complaint, say that they were called to Barnard's room for sex on multiple occasions, and that other Maidens were also called to his room. However, none of the girls talked about what happened in his quarters, and his accusers say that Barnard told them to never discuss what happened. A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Victor Barnard, and reports say he has been "flagged" by the Department of Homeland Security. He is charged with 59 criminal counts, including 43 counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct by penetration or contact with a victim aged 13 to 15 by a person in authority. Each of these 43 counts carries a maximum of 30 years in prison. Read the full criminal complaint here. Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Victor Barnard is urged to call Washington State Police at (509) 227-6644 or the Pine County tip line at (320) 629-8342.

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