Cult Appears to Have Left Minnesota and Reorganized in Spokane, Washington
(Minneapolis, MN – January 25, 2017) One of the victims of sexual assault by River Road Fellowship Cult leader Victor Barnard has filed a civil lawsuit against Barnard, the cult and other cult leaders alleging they were complicit in the operation of the cult that maintained a household of 12 to 18 year-old “maidens” who were required to have sex with Barnard as part of the religion.
The River Road Fellowship is self-described as a Christian non-denominational biblical research, teaching and fellowship ministry that is an offshoot of The Way International. The River Road Fellowship set up a camp near Finlayson, Minnesota. One particular section of the camp was called “Shepherd’s Camp.”
In July 2000, Barnard gathered a group of young females at Shepherd’s Camp that were referred to as the Maidens Group. The Maidens Group ranged in age from 12-24 years old. As part of the Fellowship’s Teachings, Barnard gave sermons about the Maidens Group giving themselves to God, remaining unmarried, and being a privileged and honored group.
Barnard spent a lot of time with the Maidens, both individually and in groups. He taught them that he represented Jesus Christ to them. Barnard did not live in the house with his wife. Instead, he lived in a home referred to as the Lodge on the Shepherd’s Camp property.
While there, Barnard had regular sexual contact, including oral sex and intercourse, with the members of the Maidens Group. Barnard’s sexual contact rotated from one Maiden to the other. When questioned, Barnard preached that he represented Christ in the flesh, that Jesus Christ had Mary Magdalene and other women who followed him, that King Solomon had lots of concubines that he had sex with, and that it was normal for Barnard to have sex with the Maidens because it was in God’s Word.
An international fugitive from 2014 to 2015, Victor Barnard was captured in Brazil and extradited back to Minnesota for prosecution. In October 2016, Victor Barnard was sentenced to 30 years in prison for sexually abusing two of the Maidens, including Lindsay Tornambe, who is identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe 118.
In her lawsuit, Lindsay Tornambe seeks damages against Barnard, the River Road Fellowship and its leaders for failing to protect her when she resided at the River Road Fellowship compound in Finlayson, Minnesota. Lindsay Tornambe also seeks damages because the cult failed to properly supervise Barnard, among other claims. She is speaking out in Spokane, because she believes cult leaders have moved to Eastern Washington and she fears for the safety of children in the region.
“This has been a very painful experience for me. When I was a teenager, Victor Barnard taught us that it was God’s plan that we honor God, ourselves and our families by having sex with Victor Barnard,” explained Lindsay Tornambe. She continued, “Since childhood, I was brainwashed into believing that being a Maiden was a way of achieving a higher spiritual state. It wasn’t until years after I left the River Road Fellowship that I realized that the Maidens and the sex was all a lie and a manipulation by Victor Barnard.”
“Even though the River Road Fellowship has disbanded since criminal charges were filed against Victor Barnard, the girls who were raped still need help. Those who participated in the River Road Fellowship program, a program that required under-aged girls to have sex with their leader, need to now participate in providing health care treatment and other assistance to those girls so that they can recover,” said Patrick Noaker, one of Lindsay Tornambe’s attorneys.
Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are River Road Fellowship trustees and alleged elders.
“We are concerned that this cult has reorganized itself in and around Spokane, Washington and children may be at risk,” explained Leander James, an attorney from Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, who also represents Lindsay Tornambe. “We intend to uncover any ongoing cult activities in Spokane, Bellingham and the Northwest that is putting our children in jeopardy today.”
Long-time colleagues, James and Noaker formed a national legal team in 2014 that now civilly prosecutes sex crimes around the United States, as far away as New York. “It was serendipitous that this case involves our home regions,” explained James. “It is personally fulfilling to know we can prosecute a case for the protection of kids in our regions,” added Noaker.
Barnard set off an international manhunt in 2014 when he fled the United States when Pine County brought charges against him for sexually abusing Lindsay Tornambe and another girl. Barnard was found in Brazil, where he was hiding with one of his “maidens.” Barnard spent more than a year in a South American prison before being extradited to the United States to face the criminal charges.
About Patrick Noaker. Patrick Noaker is an attorney in Minneapolis, Minnesota who has represented hundreds of sexual abuse survivors in cases across the United States. Patrick is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for winning multiple jury trial verdicts exceeding $1M and for winning tens of millions more in settlements. Patrick can be reached by email at Patrick@noakerlaw.com , by telephone at (612) 349-2735, or through Twitter @NoakerLaw.