PINE CITY, Minn. – Authorities have issued a nationwide warrant for the arrest of a preacher charged with sexually assaulting at least two girls in Pine County.
Victor Barnard, 52, is accused of leading a cult in Finlayson several years ago and sexually assaulted young girls as late as 2009, according to the charges.
"He's able to keep them isolated and become the authority figure," said Pine County Chief Deputy Steve Blackwell.
Chief Deputy Blackwell said it is that isolation Barnard used to manipulate and threaten girls as young as 12 and 13 to have sex with him.
According to the complaint, he assaulted at least two girls who were raised to believe they had to do what he wanted, telling them he was the "Christ in the flesh."
"Giving them religious beliefs, as twisted as they were, and using those against them," he said.
The complaint alleges the girls lived with Barnard, only seeing their parents once a month.
The group eventually left that location and moved several miles away to this one where the abuse allegedly continued.
Both girls came forward and spoke to investigators in January of 2012.
So what took so long to charge? Blackwell told KARE 11 it's a complicated case and the county attorney was hesitant to file an arrest warrant without more evidence.
"That created some frustration, but as you can see the county attorney had no problem, once we got a couple more pieces to this, to charge this out," he said.
Pine County Attorney John Carlson would not comment for this story. Blackwell said the county is working on filing additional charges in the coming days.
Blackwell believes it is only a matter of time before Barnard faces justice.
"Ultimately we are going to pursue until we find him," he said.