The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

April 15, 2014

Man accused of abusing 2 girls in 'Maidens Group'

(Continued)

In 2000, Barnard set up what he called the "Shepherd's Camp" on land where girls and young women between the ages of 12 and 24 lived as part of his "Maidens Group," the criminal complaint alleges. Barnard would give sermons about giving themselves to God and remaining unmarried, spending time with them individually and in groups, teaching that he represented "Christ in the flesh."

One of the alleged victims contacted the sheriff's office in January 2012. She said her family joined the fellowship when she was 11, and Barnard began having sex with her when she was 13, telling her it was normal "because it was in God's word," the complaint said. She left in 2010, and was contacted the following year by a woman who left the group in 2009. They eventually began discussing their experiences.

The second woman told investigators that Barnard told her sex with him was not wrong because he was a "man of God and she would remain a virgin because of it," according to the complaint. She said none of the girls at the camp talked about having sex with Barnard, but that "all the females act very intimately with Barnard when they were in groups, lying down with him and putting their hands on his chest or hair," the complaint said.

Members apparently learned of the investigation soon after it began in late 2011, Barnard said.

"They left the state, they sold the property and took the whole congregation out to the Spokane, Washington, area. As soon as we found out, we contacted the authorities in Washington," he said.

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