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Adopting Parents Accused Of Ditching Disabled Daughter When They Moved To Canada

The Barnetts allegedly “admitted [they] had Natalia’s age changed from 8-years-old to 22-years-old in June 2012," according to the affidavit. 

By M.L. Nestel

UPDATE: Kristine Barnett is no longer facing charges in connection to the alleged abuse of her adopted daughter Natalia Grace, a Ukrainian girl who has a severe form of dwarfism.

The Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington moved to dismiss with prejudice all eight counts of abuse of an adult dependent in March 2023, the Purdue Exponent reported. Since the charges were dismissed with prejudice, prosecutors cannot reopen the case against Kristine. 

Michael Barnett faced trial in October 2022 and was found not guilty of eight counts by a jury, the Courier & Journal reported. During the trial, jurors were not allowed to hear evidence of Natalia's age.

Natalia insists to this day that she was born in 2003 and that she never lied about her age, which was legally changed by a judge, according to People.com.

Original story follows below...

Indiana authorities caught up to a couple, who six years ago allegedly abandoned their disabled daughter to relocate to Canada.

Michael Barnett, 43, and his wife Kristine Barnett, 45, were charged with multiple neglect felonies last week for cutting out on their young daughter who is stricken with a form of dwarfism, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Tippecanoe County Court and reviewed by Oxygen.com.

“Natalia said she was left alone in the apartment in Lafayette while the rest of the Barnett family moved to Canada,” the affidavit reads. 

The young girl, whom the Barnetts adopted from Ukraine, was supported by concerned neighbors, who a law enforcement source told News 18, a channel in West Lafayette, Indiana, who took the girl "under their wing.”

The Barnetts, according to the court papers, adopted Natalia from Ukraine back in November 2010.

She was 8 years old when she made the long trip to settle in the U.S. two years earlier as part of a program.

Natalia has suffered from a growth condition called Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita.

For two years, Natalia lived with the Barnett family at their apartment in Lafayette, Indiana. Then, Natalie told authorities in a recent interview, the family in 2012 made a decision to flee the U.S. for Canada -- without her. 

The adopted parents allegedly returned back to the U.S. at an unknown date. They were interviewed by Tippecanoe County investigators on Sept. 5, the affidavit adds. 

Natalia said that the Barnetts didn't support her beyond paying rent for her Lafayette apartment. When questioned by authorities, the parents allegedly didn't deny Natalia's story. 

In fact, the papers show, they said they “did not financially support Natalia after leaving to Canada." 

The parents also allegedly “admitted [they] had Natalia’s age changed from 8-years-old to 22-years-old in June 2012,” according to court papers. 

Authorities believe that Natalia was still “a minor child in 2012.” 

Specifically, Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s investigators cite hospital records where Natalia underwent a “skeletal survey” which estimated she was around 11-years-old, the document states.

Michael Barnett apparently didn't dispute her young age or the parents' part in changing her age.

According to the the document “he believed Natalia was a minor child" when they left Natalia behind.

The papers also mention how Natalia moved out of Tippecanoe County back in 2016.

She's since been enrolled in tuition-free classes at a high school for adults and older youth called Excel Center, according to WLFI, another West Lafayette station. 

(This story was originally published on September 16, 2019. It was updated on June 12, 2023.)