A mum accused of abandoning her nine-year-old adopted daughter claims she is actually an adult who tried to kill her family. Kristine Barnett, 45, and her ex-husband Michael Barnett, 43, adopted Natalia Grace, a Ukrainian girl with dwarfism, in 2010. In 2013, they left her to live by herself in a flat in Indiana, before they moved away to Canada. Police have now charged the couple with two counts of neglect of a dependent – but Ms Barnett says Natalia is actually a 30-year-old woman, who was 22 at the time of her adoption. She claims her adopted daughter pretended to be a child, but that the family soon realised she had periods, adult teeth and pubic hair. Natalia is also alleged to have used grown up language, telling her new mother, who ran a ‘little school’: ‘These children are exhausting, I don’t know how you do it.’ At the time of her adoption, Natalia was supposed to be six years old.
Ms Barnett told the MailOnline: ‘The media is painting me to be a child abuser but there is no child here. Natalia was a woman. She had periods. She had adult teeth. ‘She never grew a single inch, which would happen even with a child with dwarfism. The doctors all confirmed she was suffering a severe psychological illness only diagnosed in adults. ‘She was jumping out of moving cars. She was smearing blood on mirrors. She was doing things you could never imagine a little child doing.’
Mum-of-three Ms Barnett claims Natalia threatened to kill family members and ‘roll them up in a blanket and put them in the backyard’. She said they were forced to hide sharp objects around the house, and claims she even saw Natalia putting bleach in her coffee on one occasion. Eventually the Barnetts sought the help of a doctor who ordered bone density tests to establish their daughter’s age. The results demonstrated that Natalia was at least older than 14.
Ms Barnett said once she had those results, she began buying the alleged teenager more appropriate clothing, but quickly noticed her behaviour began to deteriorate. In 2012, Natalia was placed in a long-term state-run psychiatric unit after allegedly trying to drag Ms Barnett into an electric fence. According to Ms Barnett, that is when Natalia then confessed to be older than she seemed.
The family then successfully applied to Marion County Superior Court to have Natalia’s age ‘corrected’ so she could receive the appropriate psychiatric treatment for an adult. In documents seen by DailyMailTV, Judge Gerald S. Zore accepted the couple’s allegations as ‘true’ and revised her year of birth to 1989. When Natalia was discharged from the psychiatric care the same year, the family set her up in her own flat and continued to pay her rent. They say they helped get her a social security number, benefits and food stamps, and even rented a new property for her when she was evicted.
However, Ms Barnett says Natalia then cut contact with the family and they have not seen her since. The MailOnline reports that seemingly no-one involved in the case knows where she is. Court documents cite two doctors’ reports that indicate Natalia was about eight years old in 2010 and 11 in 2012, meaning she could be 18 years old today.
While earlier this month, Mr Barnett allegedly told police Natalia’s age had been changed in 2012 even though doctors had determined she was a minor. The affidavit states: ‘Michael Barnett admitted Kristine Barnett told Natalia to tell others Natalia looked young but was actually 22.’ However his attorney Terrance Kinnard called the affidavit a lie, adding: ‘Michael never said he knew Natalia was a child.’ In 2012, the Barnetts appeared on 60 Minutes for a story about their then 13-year-old son Jake, who has Asperger’s syndrome. Ms Barnett also published a book around the same time called The Spark: A mother’s story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism. Both the Barnetts have been released on bail.