SPOKANE, Wash. - She suffered sexual abuse for years at the hands of a so-called religious leader. Now, a young woman wants people in Spokane County to know that members of the cult she grew up in have moved from Minnesota to Spokane County.
Victor Barnard was the leader of a group called the River Road Fellowship and a subsequent location in Minnesota called Shepherd's Camp. Lindsay Tornambe's parents befriended Barnard and dropped her off at the camp when she was just 13 years old.
"I thought it would be for the summer," Tornambe said. "That we would host some events, take care of the grounds, then go back to my parents in the fall."
A couple of weeks in, Tornambe learned her time at the so-called Maidens House was supposed to be forever. And, that she and the other young women there would be expected to have sex with Barnard. Tornambe said first sexual assault came soon after she arrived; at age 14, she and the others were joined to Barnard in a spiritual marriage of sorts. Tornambe said other members of the group witnessed the ceremony and did nothing to stop it.
"I didn't even realize it was a crime," Tornambe said. "For Victor, the sex was always a way of showing him us how much God loved us. The more we dedicated our lives to him here, the better place we had in heaven."
Over time, some members of the group moved to Cheney, Washington; Tornambe even lived for a time in a Maidens Home there.
Tornambe eventually left the group and realized the sexual activity with Barnard was not God's will, but rape. She notified the authorities and Barnard went on the run. For a time, investigators believed he was hiding out in the Spokane area. He was finally arrested in Brazil and is now serving 30 years in prison.
Now that the criminal case is over, Tornambe and her attorneys have set their sights on a civil lawsuit. Filed this week in Minnesota, it names not only Barnard, but also several members of the group they say failed to stop the abuse. Five of those people live in Spokane County.
Pamela and Randal Roark live in Cheney; Susan and Craig Elmblad live in south Spokane, adjacent to Moran Prairie Elementary School; Barnard's former wife Stephanie lives in Liberty Lake. While none of them have been charged with a crime connected to this case, Tornambe and her attorneys say they need to held accountable for the silence that led to her abuse.
"I feel now that all those who knew should deal with their consequences of their actions," Tornambe said. "And, be held accountable for what they did in not stopping and helping to protect children."
Tornambe's attorneys believe the cult is still operating and worries people in our community could be in danger.
"The law requires us as adults [that] if we see something, [we need] to say something," said attorney Patrick Noaker.
Tornambe is rebuilding her life and said she has found new purpose with her two-year old daughter. She finds strength in messages from other survivors of sexual abuse who reach out and find inspiration in her story.
"Even though I don't know these people, to know I'm reaching them and helping them in some way, it's a good feeling."
If you have any information about the group, you can reach out to Noacker Law Firm. http://noakerlaw.com/
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