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News Briefs: Sect leader charged with sexually abusing girls, remains at large

Editor's note: The following is a collection of news briefs from Forum Communication Company newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota.  


Sect leader charged with sexually abusing girls, remains at large

PINE CITY, Minn. -- A minister who led a cult-like religious sect in northern Pine County sexually abused numerous girls and young women who lived apart from their families in a “Maidens Group,” according to charges filed in State District Court.

Victor Arden Barnard, 52, was charged last week in State District Court with 59 counts of criminal sexual conduct. The charges pertain to two young women who reported being abused during a period of several years while living on the congregation’s compound in Finlayson. But authorities said there probably are more victims.

Barnard, who likened himself to Jesus, was last known to be living in Spokane, Wash., and remains at large. A nationwide warrant has been issued for his arrest.

The charges are the result of a more than two-year investigation by the Pine County Sheriff’s Office.

Chief Deputy Steven Blackwell said a fugitive task force in Washington is checking addresses of potential associates.

Man killed in northeastern Minnesota crash

MIDWAY TOWNSHIP, Minn. -- One man was killed and another injured Tuesday morning in a head-on collision between a pickup truck and a semi in Midway Township.

Emergency responders were dispatched to the intersection of Midway and North Cloquet roads just before 7:30 a.m. The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office reported that witnesses said a black Toyota Tacoma pickup driven by a 25-year-old man from Wrenshall was southbound on Midway Road when it crossed into the opposite lane, striking a semi with a crane attachment head-on.

The driver of the semi, a 58-year-old man from Superior, Wis., had non-life-threatening injuries. The name of the man who died was being withheld until notification of relatives.

Midway Road was closed for several hours after the crash. The accident remains under investigation.

Swarm of bees delays flight from Vegas to Duluth

DULUTH -- An Allegiant Air flight destined for Duluth from Las Vegas late Monday afternoon had to return to Las Vegas shortly after takeoff because of a swarm of bees.

Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler said the flight crew reported at 5:30 p.m. Duluth time that shortly after takeoff, a swarm of bees was clouding the windshield and bees were being ingested into the plane’s engines.

The crew decided to abort the flight, landing safely back in Las Vegas. More than 160 passengers were put on a new plane and got to Duluth at about 10:30 p.m., an hour and 40 minutes later than scheduled.

Minnesota deer feeding effort all but over

DULUTH -- With snow depth diminishing across much of northeastern Minnesota, the state’s first supplementary deer-feeding program in more than 15 years is all but over.

Nearly 1,000 volunteers have distributed 528 tons of deer feed across the region to help beleaguered whitetails make it through the winter, said Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association. The effort began March 6, and Johnson estimates that volunteers reached 16,000 deer.

Saturday marked the final day of feeding at more than 1,000 sites, Johnson said.

But feeding will continue through this week or longer on the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa reservation, said Mike Schrage, the band’s wildlife biologist. That’s because snow depth remains at more than 20 inches on the reservation.

The deer hunters’ association coordinated the feeding effort. A total of $260,000 was allocated, of which MDHA has spent about $200,000, Johnson said. The money, generated by a 50-cent surcharge on deer hunting licenses, was transferred from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to the hunters’ association in a grant.

The DNR opposes supplementary deer feeding, saying it can cause disease transmission from close contact among deer, and because it doesn’t reach enough deer to make a population-wide difference.

North Dakota

Mandan man crashes into I-94 median after police pursuit

GLADSTONE, N.D. -- A Mandan man was arrested early Monday after he fled from authorities on Interstate 94, only to crash his vehicle into the median at the Gladstone exit, authorities said.

The Stark County Sheriff’s Office arrested Dustin Munson, 28, after a pursuit that began in Morton County carried over into Stark County at about 2 a.m.

Munson failed to stop for sheriff’s deputies until he entered the median at the Gladstone exit and crashed his 2003 Chevrolet S-10 pickup into sand barrels set up there, authorities said.

“He took those head-on,” Stark County sheriff’s Capt. Dean Franchuk said.

Munson was uninjured but was arrested on charges of fleeing authorities, driving under the influence and reckless driving. He was taken to Southwest Multi-County Correction Center in Dickinson.

Hoeven urges agencies to halt livestock emissions regulations

WASHINGTON -- Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., has asked three federal agencies to halt regulations on livestock emissions.

In a letter also signed by 15 other Republican senators, Hoeven pressed the Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency not to impose policies that he said could cost cattle producers thousands of dollars.

The letter is in response to President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which asks the agencies to develop a plan to reduce dairy sector methane greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020, according to the release. The mandates could cost medium-sized dairy farms up to $22,000 and medium-sized cattle farms up to $27,000.

An appropriations bill is preventing the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions associated with livestock production, but it expires Oct. 1. Officials at the agencies are expected to come up with a plan in the following weeks.

Arizona woman dies after car accident near Minot

MINOT, N.D. -- A Mesa, Ariz., woman has died after being involved in a car accident near Minot.

Maria Schermerhorn, 42, succummed to injuries Tuesday after her 2005 Acura was struck by a 2012 Ford F-150 pickup driven by Dennis Miller, 55, of Bismarck, according to a news release from the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

Schermerhorn was traveling east on Highway 23 when she ran a stop sign Monday afternoon at Junction 83, about 15 miles south of Minot, the patrol reported. She entered the southbound lane, where Miller’s vehicle struck hers.

Both drivers were wearing seatbelts.

Schermerhorn was transported by helicopter to Trinity Hospital in Minot, where she died.

The accident remains under investigation, according to the patrol.