Impeachment is looking inevitable and the earth is literally on fire. Yet the craziest news story of the week is the real-life Orphan who may or may not be an adult masquerading as a child. Oh, she also allegedly tried to kill her adoptive parents, so they left her in Indiana and fled to Canada where their other child attends the elite Perimeter Institute studying theoretical physics.
On Monday, the Daily Mail published the disturbing tale of Kristine and Michael Barnett, an “unsuspecting Christian couple” who adopted “an adorable little girl only to discover she is an adult masquerading as a sociopath.”
Kristine Barnett spoke with the Daily Mail from an “undisclosed location” after being charged by the state of Indiana with felony neglect for allegedly abandoning her adopted 8-year-old daughter, Natalia, in 2013. “'The movie Orphan is exactly what happened,” said Barnett, referencing a 2009 thriller about grieving parents who unwittingly adopt a murderous 33-year-old woman pretending to be a child.
So...what’s the deal?
Who is Natalia Barnett, and how did she get to Indiana?
The Barnetts say they adopted Natalia, who has a form of dwarfism known as spondyloepimetaphyseal dysplasia, from an adoption center in Florida in 2010. She had a Ukrainian birth certificate that listed her date of birth as September 4, 2003. She had allegedly been in the U.S. for two years, and her previous adoptive family had given her up for “undisclosed reasons.”
The couple say they quickly became suspicious of Natalia, with Kristine telling the Daily Mail that when she first bathed her, she found that Natalia had “full pubic hair.”
"She had periods. She had adult teeth,” said Barnett, who alleges that after Natalia began acting out violently — attacking a baby boy, pushing Kristine into an electric fence, and making death threats — the family sought out psychiatric help. Healthcare officials, including the Barnetts' primary care physician who performed a bone density test, and a clinical therapist who treated Natalia, believed her to be an adult impersonating a child.
In 2012, a judge approved the Barnetts' application to have Natalia’s date of birth officially revised to September 4th 1989 – officially changing her age from eight to 22. Shortly after, they rented Natalia an apartment and placed her under the supervision of an Indiana state healthcare provider so she could receive psychiatric treatment as an adult.
Kristine Barnett then moved to Canada with her son, Jacob, an autistic child prodigy about whom she wrote a well-received memoir.
Why did the Barnetts get arrested?
In September 2019, prosecutors in Tippecanoe, IN brought formal charges of neglect against the Barnetts (now divorced). An Affidavit of Probable Cause from 2014 provided to Refinery29 refers to tests performed by Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in 2013 that seem to contradict earlier medical reports about Natalia's age. Investigators at the time found Natalia’s claims that she was a Ukrainian child who had been abandoned by the Barnetts “credible.”
But Michael Barnett’s attorney told the Daily Mail that the charges had been filed because another couple, perhaps convinced by Natalia that she was a minor, had petitioned to become her guardian, explaining, “Natalia was living on her own and a couple wanted to become her guardians. Thinking she was still a child, the couple tried to overturn the 2012 result.”
Despite the new tests commissioned by that couple, the court upheld the original results which maintained that Natalia was an adult. The couple later dropped their guardianship petition.
Why is this case becoming public now?
Tippecanoe Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Terry Ruley isn’t sure why the charges, first filed in 2014, are being pursued now. “There’s some unique oddities to the case,” he told Refinery29, adding that news outlets from all across the country had been in touch with his office about the case.
The Barnetts are scheduled to appear in court in October. They maintain that Natalia was an adult and that they were acting in her best interest.
Wait, isn’t this also like that documentary?
Where is Natalia today?
Natalia’s whereabouts are currently unknown. Her age remains the subject of much debate.