Abuse victim worried about location of religious sect

Published 8:49 am Friday, January 27, 2017

SPOKANE, Wash. — A victim of sexual abuse by the leader of a religious sect in Minnesota spoke out Wednesday amid concerns that its members have relocated to Washington state.

Lindsay Tornambe, 30, and two of her attorneys held a news conference and urged any other possible victims to come forward.

In October, Victor Barnard, 55, longtime leader of the River Road Fellowship, was sentenced to 30 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting two teenage girls, including Tornambe, who were members of his sect in Minnesota.

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Tornambe has filed a lawsuit in Minnesota against leaders of the sect for failing to protect her when she lived as a young girl at the River Road Fellowship near Finlayson.

“Our concern is that children are at risk today because of this cult,” said Leander James of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, an attorney for Tornambe.

Barnard was the only sect member charged in Minnesota with sex crimes. Lawyers for Tornambe said they were not aware of any abuse occurring in Washington.

They did not know why members had moved to the Spokane and Bellingham areas.

The Associated Press generally does not name victims of sexual abuse, but Tornambe has said she wants her name used when she speaks out against the sect.

In 2012, two women, including Tornambe, came forward and told authorities that Barnard began assaulting them when they were as young as 12.

The women said they were among about 10 girls and young women chosen to live in a camp apart from their families as part of Barnard’s “Maidens Group.”

Barnard kept the girls secluded, using religious coercion and intimidation to maintain his control over them, authorities said.

“I cried myself to sleep a lot,” Tornambe said. “Everything was totally taken away from me.”

Barnard was a fugitive when he was charged in 2014 with 59 counts of criminal sexual conduct. He was arrested in Brazil in 2015 after an international manhunt.

James and fellow attorney Patrick Noaker said members of the sect, including Tornambe’s mother and sister, were living in Spokane and the suburbs of Liberty Lake and Cheney.