PINE CITY, Minn. (KMSP) - Campo Grande is a notorious maximum security prison in Brazil, where Victor Barnard spent a year in mostly solitary confinement. It makes the Pine County Jail, where Barnard now sits in a segregated unit with a window, look like Club Med. But Barnard’s attorney says that year took a toll.
“No question it was tough on him if you compare before and after,” Marsh Halberg said.
In court Tuesday, only one of Barnard’s followers was present -- Nicole Rourke, one of his former “maidens” in the River Road Fellowship. Two of Barnard’s former maidens told the Fox 9 Investigators they were forced to have sex with Barnard when they were just 12 and 13 years old. Barnard once had 140 followers, who believed his word was the word of God.
A few of those followers are among the 45 names prosecutors plan to call as witnesses. Most are law enforcement, who will testify that Barnard fled to Brazil to avoid prosecution. The defense will argue his extradition was conducted improperly.
“We know three times he was at the jail door and pulled back,” Halberg said.
Even though the Pine County Jail is a vast improvement, Barnard has one request -- a King James Bible, instead of a Gideon.
FIRST REPORT - Maidens of River Road
Victor Barnard faces 58 counts of sexually abusing teenage girls who were called “Maidens” in his religious group, The River Road Fellowship. As the Fox 9 Investigators revealed in February 2014, the woman said Barnard told them he was sexually indoctrinating the girls, sometimes even getting their parents’ permission.
Prosecutors declined to file charges in the case until the Fox 9 Investigation exposed Barnard and the group. The charges led to a global manhunt for Barnard, who was captured last year in Brazil in the company of one of his female followers.
Fox 9 first reported the story in February 2014 when two women broke their silence about the cult, accusing Barnard of years of sexual abuse.
In April of 2014, prosecutors in Pine County charged Barnard with sexual misconduct. He then became the subject of an international manhunt, as investigators believed he had gone to Brazil, where he had other followers. It wasn't until late February of 2015 that authorities arrested Barnard in the southern coast of Rio Grande do Norte, according to Globo, who reported he had been staying with a 33-year-old woman who was a known Barnard follower.
At the time of this arrest, he was on the U.S. 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.
In November 2015, Brazil media reported that Barnard tried to hang himself in a suicide attempt while in a federal prison in Brazil. But other reports indicated he may have been assaulted by fellow prisoners.
his March, Brazil’s highest court, the Supremo Tribunal Federal, approved the extradition of Barnard to Minnesota.
Barnard was all set to be extradited in May, but then suddenly the process stalled. Multiples sources told Fox 9 Investigators the diplomatic snafu came down to the precise wording of the extradition agreement. As Fox 9 previously reported, Brazil’s Supreme Court said they would only release Barnard to U.S. custody if it is agreed that his sentence, if convicted of the charges in Minnesota, would not exceed 30 years in prison.