Remember Natalia Grace Barnett?
She made headlines three years ago when her story first went viral and ultimately culminated in a shocking Dr. Phil episode. To recap, Ukraine-born Natalia was adopted by an Indiana family with three sons. The Barnett family was told by the adoption agency that she was six years old when the process went through in 2010.
By 2012, though, Michael and Kristine Barnett began to doubt Natalia’s real age and wondered whether she was actually much older than first claimed. They said she behaved far differently than any six-year-old. Further, the family later claimed she tried to physically harm them!
Yes, we know what you’re thinking. It’s the plot of the horror movie Orphan. Well, outlandish and unbelievable as it may be, it happened for real!
In June of that year, the Marion County Superior Court agreed with the Barnetts’ assessment and amended the girls’ birth record to indicate that she was born in 1989 — and not 2003, as originally claimed via the adoption agency. That means she was a twentysomething woman. So of course the parents weren’t going to continue housing her.
However, the Barnetts didn’t abandon the young woman. They set Natalia up with an apartment in the city of Lafayette and moved to Canada with their three sons in tow. Per her new birthdate as ordered by the court, she would have been in her early 20s when that all happened. But per the old Ukrainian birth record, she supposedly wasn’t even ten years old, and living in an apartment all by herself.
Natalia’s story rose to prominence after two nearby apartment residents named Antwon and Cynthia Mans befriended and helped her. The trio went on Dr. Phil’s daytime TV show claiming to have been abandoned by the Barnett family when she was still just a young child. Dr. Phil was skeptical of the story at the time, but the tall tale quickly went viral.
Shocked at the allegations presented in that 2019 interview, cops eventually arrested the Barnetts and charged them with felony child neglect!
Why? Well, according to certain birth records, they left a 12-year-old to fend for herself! We know those records were wrong, but it seems like it took a really long time to prove it.
Now, the case against Michael Barnett has finally come to a conclusion. In late October, according to the Lafayette Journal & Courier, Michael was cleared of all four felony neglect charges he had been facing. This ending comes more than three years after he and his then-wife (maybe it was the stress of all this, but Michael and Kristine split up) were originally arrested in Natalia’s case. The verdict came back in a Marion County courtroom on October 27, per the newspaper. Michael is now free of all neglect allegations from this ludicrous case.
A gag order is still in place following the trial, and it prevents Michael and everyone else from discussing it. Still, he was clearly very thankful in court. According to the newspaper, he “began to quietly sob” after his acquittal verdict was read aloud. His new wife, while watching the proceedings, could also be heard saying “it’s over.”
Natalia had testified in Michael’s trial. Under oath, she claimed she “wanted to live with” the Barnetts before she was left behind while they moved to Canada. Because Natalia’s birth had legally been deemed to be in 1989 by the state of Indiana, however, she was legally an adult in the eyes of the law. Thus, she was legally required to abide by that ruling in her testimony. Still, she testified that when she was left behind, she didn’t know how to cook, clean, or use a washing machine. She also claimed it was Cynthia Mans who taught her how to read, write, and learn math.
The verdict sided with Michael Barnett, though. He is no longer facing child neglect accusations in this bizarre case. His ex-wife, Kristine, will go to trial on the same charges in February of next year. We imagine it will go the same way. Per TooFab, Michael has repeatedly been subpoenaed to testify in that case. Jeez. What a crazy situation. But now it appears like it’s over.
Reactions, Perezcious readers?
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