Rush City inmate charged with assault of cult leader Victor Barnard

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Victor Barnard. Pine County, Minnesota booking photo.

An inmate of the Rush City, Minnesota prison said he “was doing God’s work” when he allegedly assaulted convicted cult leader Victor Barnard in a cell. Shane Michael Kringen, 44, was charged Thursday in Chisago County with one count of first-degree assault.

According to the criminal complaint, prison video surveillance shows Kringen entering Barnard’s cell on Jan. 8, staying for about one minute, then exiting. A short time later, a corrections officer conducted a security check and found Barnard bleeding inside of his cell.

Barnard was taken to Regions Hospital and was treated for extensive facial fractures and lacerations, rib fractures and a collapsed lung. Doctors also determined Barnard had a traumatic brain injury and was in respiratory failure.

“He was in a very bad place. He didn’t know who I was,” said Barnard’s attorney Marsh Halberg, who visited with Barnard within the last three weeks. “He was in Pine County for months before his case was resolved and he has no memory of being in Pine County. He has no memory of the assault—which is probably good. He could not hear out of his right ear, could not see out of his right eye.”

When Kringen was escorted from the area, he said he “was doing God’s work.” On Jan. 24, investigators attempted to interview Kringen, but he declined to give a statement. On Jan. 31, Rush City prison personnel confiscated a letter Kringen had written, in which he admitted to assaulting Victor Barnard, but stopped when he was knocked out.

Following the assault at Rush City, Barnard’s defense attorney, David Risk, told the Fox 9 Investigators that Barnard recently told his case worker he had received threats from fellow inmates. Risk says the case worker told Barnard not to worry.

In October, Barnard was sentenced to 30 years in prison for sexually assaulting two of his young followers for nearly a decade, beginning when they were 12 and 13 year olds.  In February 2014, The Fox 9 Investigators were the first to expose the religious group, The River Road Fellowship, and Barnard’s sexual abuse of his followers. Those stories led criminal charges, a global fugitive manhunt for Barnard, leading to his capture in Brazil, and his extradition back to the U.S. to face 58 counts of sexual abuse.

Rush City holds a special significance for Barnard and his followers, which once numbered 140.  Barnard moved to Rush City 25 years ago with his family and several of his followers to begin a religious group with former members of the Way International.  Barnard lived on a street called River Road in Rush City and the group adopted it as the name of their group.