A mum accused of felony neglect for abandoning her nine-year-old adopted daughter has claimed she wasn’t a young girl at all, and was actually a 22-year-old sociopath who had tried to kill her multiple times.
Although this sounds as though it’s come straight from the plot of the Orphan film, this is the defence put forward by 45-year-old Kristine Barnett, a mum-of-three and author of a renowned parenting book.
Barnett is accused of dumping Ukrainian-born Natalia Grace at an apartment in Indiana in 2013 when she was just nine years old, before fleeing to Canada with her ex-husband Michael Barnett, 43, and their other children.
The couple then allegedly broke off contact with their adopted daughter, paying the rent for the apartment they had left her in but not supporting her financially in any other way. Police say Natalia was left to fend for herself for three years, despite having a rare form of dwarfism which meant she was just three-feet-tall and had problems walking.
However, Kristine is adamant the true victims of this scenario are herself and her family, due to Natalia being 22 at the time of their departure. The mother claims her family were terrorised by the girl, who reportedly threatened to stab them in their sleep and poured bleach in her coffee.
In an interview with Daily Mail TV, the 45-year-old said:
She would make statements and draw pictures saying she wanted to kill family members, roll them up in a blanket and put them in the backyard. She was standing over people in the middle of the night. You couldn’t go to sleep. We had to hide all the sharp objects.
I saw her putting chemicals, bleach, Windex something like that, in my coffee and I asked her, what are you doing? She said, ‘I am trying to poison you’. The media is painting me to be a child abuser but there is no child here.
The mother continued to put her point forward that Natalia was a woman, saying: ‘She had periods. She had adult teeth. She never grew a single inch, which would happen even with a child with dwarfism’.
Kristine and Michael adopted Natalia in 2010 from Ukraine, however Kristine claims she soon began to get suspicious that everything wasn’t as it seemed. One time, for example, the mother says she was giving her a bath when she noticed ‘she had full pubic hair’.
After getting a doctor to perform bone density tests, they reportedly proved the young girl was at least 14 and Kristine says she began buying her more ‘age-appropriate’ clothes. It’s at this point the young girl’s mental health started to deteriorate, Kristine claims.
The mother said Natalia smeared bodily fluids on walls, made death threats, and even attempted to drag her onto an electric fence during a birthday outing in 2012. She claims they realised the adoption was a scam and made the decision to leave.
However, according to ABC7, 43-year-old Michael reportedly told a detective earlier this month that he and his wife had had Natalia’s age legally changed to 22 in June 2012, and that his wife told her to tell anyone who asked that she ‘looks young but was actually 22’.
Court documents obtained by PEOPLE state Natalia was interviewed by police in 2014 and told them she ‘had not seen the Barnett’s since they moved to Canada’.
Investigators wrote in the affidavit:
She was left alone in the apartment in Lafayette while the rest of the Barnett family moved to Canada.
Kristine strongly disputes the charges against her, saying she is ‘sick and devastated’ and will continue to maintain they are false charges.
Kristine and Michael have been charged with two counts of neglect of a dependent.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).