Couple Accused Of Neglect Say Adopted Ukrainian Daughter Was Actually Adult Dwarf Running A Scam
Kristine and Michael Barnett say Natalia is an adult dwarf — and a diagnosed psychopath and sociopath.
UPDATE: The charges against Kristine Barnett were dismissed with prejudice in March 2023, just before she was due to face trial for the alleged abuse of her adopted daughter, Natalia Grace.
Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington dismissed eight counts of neglect of a dependent against Kristine citing "insufficient evidence," the Purdue Exponent reported. Since the case was dismissed with prejudice, prosecutors cannot reopen the case against her.
As for Michael Barnett, Kristine's ex-husband, he was acquitted of all eight counts of neglect of a dependent following a trial in October 2022, according to the Journal & Courier. Jurors, who were not allowed to hear evidence pertaining to Natalia's age, deliberated for two hours.
Natalia maintains that she never lied to the Barnetts about her age and insists that she is 19 years old, according to People.com.
Original story follows below...
An Indiana mother charged last week, along with her ex-husband, with neglect after allegedly relocating to Canada without their disabled 10-year-old daughter claims the girl was actually an adult, who deceived them about her age.
Kristine Barnett diverted the blame to Natalia, the child both she and her former husband, Michael Barnett, adopted from Ukraine back in November 2010, in an interview with Indiana station WISH-TV, calling the girl a grownup who was “a diagnosed psychopath and sociopath.”
The mother then told the station over Facebook that the adoption of Natalia was a “scam,” and she had been an adult “the entire time she’s known her,” WISH reported.
Natalia suffers from a form of dwarfism called Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita, which affects the bones and limits growth, according to the outlet.
On Tuesday, following nationwide coverage of the accusations against both Barnett parents, warrants were issued for Michael and Kristine Barnett, and both appeared in Tippecanoe County Superior court.
Each was released the following day after posting a $5,000 surety bond and $500 cash, court records show.
Oxygen.com's attempts to reach the parents or their attorneys were unsuccessful.
Prior to Kristine being formally arraigned, she supplied WISH-TV with a letter purportedly composed by Michael Barnett’s Indiana University Health doctor, who she said examined Natalia.
The letter's date and authenticity remain unclear, since the TV station was unable to get a confirmation when they showed it to Indiana University Health. A spokesman for the university hospital system refused to comment on the letter's provenance when reached by Oxygen.com, citing privacy concerns related to doctor-patient communications.
According to the station, the letter characterizes Natalia's birth certificate as “clearly inaccurate."
Michael's doctor apparently writes in the letter that Natalia was well over 18-years-old as of 2011, based on an examination of Natalia's teeth, adult sexual development and menstrual cycle, according to WISH-TV.
There is also a mention in the letter of Natalia being diagnosed with sociopathic personality disorder, and alleges that she had a history of adoption fraud.
According to the arrest affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com, the Barnetts allegedly decided to change Natalia’s legal age, and told her to tell others that, while she "looks young, [she] was actually 22."
Kristine’s claims and the letter she sent to the station appear to be at odds with some of the allegations — and Michael's own alleged admissions — laid out in the affidavit.
It suggests that an investigation began five years ago, and that Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s investigators followed up on Sept. 5 by interviewing both parents.
During questioning by the investigators, Michael allegedly “admitted” he and his wife “had Natalia's age legally changed from 8-years-old to 22.”
Despite this, investigators submit in the affidavit that both parents knew Natalia was actually a child.
They arrived at this conclusion by dredging up medical records that show how the Barnetts had Natalia evaluated twice by a doctor at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital.
The first doctor's evaluation took place in 2010.
Back then, it was determined then that “Natalia was a minor child" and estimated her age to be "approximately 8-years-old," according to the affidavit.
Natalia was then brought in for a second evaluation, only months before the Barnetts moved to Canada back in 2013. This time, the girl underwent a “skeletal survey” and those results clearly stated that she was still “a minor child,” according to the affidavit.
When questioned by investigators earlier this month, Michael allegedly “believed Natalia was a minor child" at the time the family moved out of the country.
The Barnetts told investigators that they paid for Natalia’s rent, according to the affidavit.
However, Michael allegedly informed authorities in the document that beyond the rent, they “did not financially support Natalia after leaving to Canada."
In Michael's account, sometime in September 2014, the Barnetts stopped paying for Natalia's Lafayette, Indiana rental. The reason for this may be because the girl was evicted in May of that same year, according to WISH-TV.
Fortunately for Natalia, concerned neighbors intervened and looked after her, the court papers say.
In 2016, Natalia moved away from Tippecanoe County to enroll in tuition-free classes at a high school for adults and older youth called Excel Center, according to WLFI, a West Lafayette station.
A Sept. 15 Facebook post by Kristine Barnett insisted that she was "sick and devastated from the idea of any of these charges," and maintained that the charges were false.
(This story was originally published on September 20, 2019. It was updated on June 12, 2023.)