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But according to the charges released last week, Barnard persuaded parents in the isolated community to send 10 girls and young women to live together at the Shepherd’s Camp in a position of honor as the “maidens.” Barnard ruled “like a rock star” over the camp and would allegedly call for one maiden or another from “the Lodge,” where he lived, to have sex with him.
One of the women, Lindsay Tornambe, told investigators that a month after becoming a maiden at age 13, Barnard raped her. He continued sexually assaulting her over the course of nine years.
Barnard taught the girls that he represented Jesus, the charges say, and that “sex with him was not wrong because he was a Man of God and she would remain a virgin because of it.” The charges are based on the accounts of Tornambe and another former maiden, and multiple former members of River Road Fellowship confirmed Barnard’s power over the group.
Those are difficult charges for Barnard’s family and former friends to read.
“I’m not saying he didn’t do something wrong,” said Stanley Barnard, who has not heard from his son in a very long time. Stanley Barnard saw the influence Victor had over the members of his congregation, including one of his own sisters. “He was the accepted leader of the whole thing … They idolized him. I’m sure it all eventually went to his head.”
Looking back, Larsen sees now how Barnard’s whole purpose with the camp shifted from fellowship to cloaking the alleged sexual assaults. Barnard had always been a controlling person, Larsen said, “but not anything like what he became.”
“Everything became about trying to cover it up, control it, hide it,” Larsen said. “To me the real story is how something can start off good and end up so raunchy.”
Star Tribune staff writer Pam Louwagie contributed to this report.
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