Self-proclaimed pastor and alleged sex offender Victor Barnard, charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse of young girls in Pine County, has reportedly attempted suicide in his cell in Brazil.
According to Brazilian news reports, Barnard was placed in the intensive care unit of a regional hospital on Nov. 13 after his suicide attempt. Physicians did not give more information about his health status.
Barnard allegedly sexually abused teen and preteen girls in his care while leading a cult called the “River Road Fellowship” in rural Finlayson between 2000-2009.
Barnard was charged in Pine County Court in April 2014 with 59 felony counts of criminal sexual conduct, but attempts to find and arrest him in Washington state, where he and his followers moved in 2009, came up empty.
The hunt for Barnard intensified in November 2014 when the U.S. Marshals Service added him to its 15 Most Wanted fugitive list and offered a $25,000 reward. At that time, the U.S. Marshals reported that Barnard may have left the country.
The criminal charges against Barnard also set off an international manhunt. Barnard was found to have entered Brazil in 2012, and had remained there on an expired visa. Brazilian officials arrested him in a condominium in northeast Brazil on Feb. 27, 2015.
Barnard has been in custody in Brazil since that time. Through the Brazilian court system he is fighting attempts to extradite him back to the United States.
Extradition is a process through which one country transfers a suspect of a crime or a convicted criminal to another country for prosecution.
The United States has standing agreements for extradition with 110 countries around the world. Brazil and the United States signed their extradition treaty in 1961, “for the purpose of making more effective the cooperation between the two countries in the repression of crime.”
Brazil is not obliged under the treaty to extradite its own citizens. However, unless Barnard has dual citizenship, and reports indicate that he does not, he is still a United States citizen and ultimately subject to the laws of the United States and any criminal charges brought against him.
But as long as he remains in Brazil, he has options available to him through the Brazilian legal process. And according to an article by American Citizen Services, the Brazilian legal system has some similarities to the United States system, “but the laws and procedures differ enormously from what Americans are accustomed to in the U.S.”
In the days after his arrest, Pine County Attorney Reese Frederickson said he hoped that the Barnard could be returned to the United States shortly, but noted that the extradition process would involve an agreement between the two governments involved and could take as long as one to three years.
Mike Gainor is editor of a Times’ sister paper, the Pine City Pioneer.