Cult leader Victor Barnard captured in Brazil

Cult leader Victor Barnard was arrested in Brazil on Friday, U.S. Marshals confirmed.
Almost a year to the day after the Fox 9 Investigators revealed a Minnesota cult leader had molested his young followers, Victor Barnard, 53, was captured at a home in Brazil and arrested on 59 counts of sexual assault. He has been the subject of an international manhunt.

US Marshals Services confirmed his arrest on Saturday afternoon. The Brazilian Supreme Court has reportedly already signed an extradition warrant with Barnard's name on it. Currently, there's no timeline on Barnard's extradition back to Pine County. However, two young women who brought their case to authorities may not only have to face Barnard in court, but also people they grew up with, people they love, including their own parents and siblings, some of whom are still Barnard's followers.

Investigators: Maidens of River Road

More: Cult leader charged with molesting "Maidens"

Captured at Brazilian beach house

Barnard was arrested late Friday night in the southern coast of Rio Grande do Norte, according to Globo, who reported he had been staying with 33-year-old Cristina Liberato, a known Barnard follower who has lived in the U.S. He was on the US Marshals' 15 most wanted list, and a $25,000 reward had been offered for his arrest. He was also one of the top fugitives wanted by Interpol.

Globo reported Barnard entered Brazil legally in 2012 as he wasn't convicted until April 2014. Military Police Lt. Daniel Costa told Globo that Barnard was found in a condominium on Pipa beach, a municipality of Tibau do Sul. Items including diaries, computers and flash drives were seized and taken to the Federal Police headquarters in Natal.

Maidens of River Road

It was on February 26, 2014 that the Fox 9 Investigators revealed the story of Jess Schweiss and Lindsay Tornambe, who said as young teenagers they had endured years of sexual abuse at the hands of Barnard, who was the leader of the River Road Fellowship, a religious cult located in Pine County, Minnesota."We were called the ‘10 Maidens' and we were supposed to be the picture of virginity and chastity. We had taken a vow of celibacy basically. And that's what the church knew, but that was a lie from day one," Schweiss said.  

The woman told Fox 9 how they were part of a group of young first born girls known as the Maidens, who assisted with chores at the compound and were instructed to have sexual relations with Barnard. As adults, the woman brought their concerns to the Pine County Sheriff's Office, but former Pine County attorney John Carlson declined to charge the case. Barnard had since moved with many of his followers to Washington. 

All that changed after the Schweiss and Tornambe came forward to tell their story. Soon the Pine County Sheriff's Office reopened the case and Carlson charged Barnard with 59 counts of sexual abuse of minors. The former sheriff says he always suspected Barnard had left the country.

"He had the financial support and a group of supports willing to keep his location confidential. If you have that kind of support, it's not hard to disappear," he told Fox 9 over the phone.

Current Pine County attorney Reese Fredrickson is now tasked with the prosecution.

"We're confident that we can do this case. We're confident that we can meet our obligations of making sure the process is fair if it goes to trial," he said.

'OMG, that's him'

Schweiss, when shown a picture of Barnard in handcuff's this morning, said in a text, "OMG, that's him!"

Tornambe told Fox 9 she felt numb and started crying when she heard the news of his arrest.

"He had talked about if things got bad in the U.S., he might have to go to Brazil. I'm not surprised they found him down there," she said.

More: Cult victim 'looking forward to seeing him in shackles'

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