WSP helping track down Minn. minister wanted for sex crimes

Victor Barnard, wanted on 59 counts of sexual misconduct with children, last seen in Spokane area

WSP helping track down Minn. minister wanted for sex crimes

SPOKANE, Wash. - The Washington State Patrol is assisting authorities in Minnesota track down the whereabouts of a minister who has been charged with 59 counts of sexual misconduct with children. He's now believed to be in the Spokane area.

According to the criminal complaint filed in Pine County, Minn., Victor Arden Barnard, 52, allegedly abused two members of "Maidens Group" within a church he led called the River Road Fellowship.

The two victims were among several girls and young women who lived apart from their families in a camp Barnard set up near the town of Finlayson, about 90 miles north of Minneapolis in east-central Minnesota. 

One victim alleges Barnard sexually abused her from the ages of 13 to 22. The other alleges he abused her for several years starting when she was 12.

"We hope they can inspire other victims, because they weren't the only 2. These are 59 counts on just these two victims, so we know there was more," Chief Deputy Steve Blackwell of the Pine County Sheriff's Office said.

The Pine County Attorney's Office issued a criminal complaint against Barnard on April 11 after a multi-year investigation into his behavior. That same day a nationwide warrant for Barnard's arrest was issued.

"This has been a three year investigation," Blackwell said. "The focus has always been to hold this person accountable for his acts on these young girls."

His last known location was in the Spokane area, so the Pine County Sheriff's Office is coordinating with the Washington State Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security to arrest him. KXLY sources say Barnard's wife used to live in the Eagle Ridge area. Neighbors believe she and Victor lived in a home with another local couple, and they say Victor traveled a lot. Another neighbor says the family moved out in a hurry last year.

Anyone who may have information as to Barnard's whereabouts is asked to call WSP Detective Ryan Spangler at (509) 227-6644 or the Pine County Sheriff's Office tip line at (320) 629-8342.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.