Cases of Kristine Barnett, Michael Barnett filled with twists

LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A 2012 court order changed Natalia Grace, an orphan from Ukraine, from an 8-year-old girl to a 22-year-old woman, and in doing so protected her adoptive parents from judicial scrutiny.

The Ministry of Children’s Services was unable to investigate Natalia Grace, the adoptee with severe dwarfism, because of the court order that aged her out.

Prosecutors cannot charge Natalia’s adoptive parents, Michael and Kristine Barnett, with neglect for abandoning a child in Lafayette in July 2013 because legally she is not a child.

But prosecutors can charge the Barnetts with neglect of a dependent due to Natalia’s crippling dwarfism.

Over the past two years, the Barnetts’ cases have taken so many legal twists and turns, here’s an attempt to unravel the story before the Barnetts go to trial later this year.

Continued:Mother and father accused of abandoning adopted daughter in Lafayette surrender

What made this negligence case different?

For starters, Natalia is severely crippled by dwarfism. She is an orphan from Ukraine, who was first adopted by a family in New Hampshire in 2008. That adoption didn’t work out, so the Barnetts adopted Natalia in 2010. The adoption ended in November 2010, which made Natalia 7 years old at the time the Barnetts adopted her, according to her Ukrainian birth certificates.

A number of aspects of the story – Natalia’s dwarfism, her European orphan and her inability to find a forever family in the United States – attracted international media attention when prosecutors charged Michael and Kristine Barnett. in September 2011.

The now-divorced couple faced multiple counts of dependent neglect, including allegations that the Barnetts abandoned their daughter in an unfamiliar town and left the country, according to the prosecutor’s allegations.

In this March 2011 file photo from the Indianapolis Star, 12-year-old Jake Barnett, center, takes a break from studying for his college finals.  In the background, Natalia Barnett sits on a kitchen chair and Michael Barnett is seen at the kitchen island.

National media attention is being fueled by how allegations of child neglect contrast with Kristine Barnett’s self-promotion as a role model mother, advocate for the disabled and champion of raising children.

Kristine Barnett has written a book called “The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius”.

Google’s account of the book states: “Kristine Barnett’s son Jacob has an IQ higher than Einstein, a photographic memory, and he learned arithmetic in two weeks. At age nine, he started working on an original theory in astrophysics that experts say could one day put him in line for a Nobel Prize, and at the age of twelve he became a paid researcher in quantum physics. with Jake is all the more remarkable as his extraordinary mind was nearly lost to autism.At the age of two, when Jake was diagnosed, Kristine was told he might not be able to never tie his shoes.”

Continued: College in Canada is the next step for Westfield boy genius Jacob Barnett, family

The foster mother painted in Kristine Barnett’s public persona contrasts with the adoptive mother accused of changing her adoptive daughter’s birth year, moving her adoptive daughter to Lafayette – a town in which Natalia never knew until in 2013. After dropping Natalia off at a Lafayette Apartment, Kristine and Michael, and their biological sons moved to Canada so that 15-year-old Jacob Barnett could start college, according to prosecutors and Kristine and Michael Barnett’s public interviews. .

Two versions of each story

Prosecutors filed charges in September 2019 accusing Kristine and Michael Barnett of neglecting Natalia due to her age.

But both Michael and Kristine Barnett have said in media interviews that essentially from the first days Natalia stayed with them, they thought Natalia wasn’t a child, and they came to believe that Natalia defrauded them by using his dwarfism to pretend to be a child.

Michael Barnett, center, appeared Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, on The Dr. Oz Show and discussed allegations that he and his ex-wife altered their adopted daughter's birth certificates to make her an adult, then allegedly abandoned the girl in Lafayette.

His vocabulary was too developed to be a 7 year old. the case or the persons involved in the case.

The Barnetts claimed Natalia had pubic hair and menstrual cycles when they adopted her.

Natalia appeared on “Dr. Phil” in November 2019 and denied having pubic hair or menstrual cycles when she was adopted.

The former Westfield couple, who filed for divorce in November 2013, claimed Natalia threatened to kill the Barnetts and their biological sons. Kristine accused Natalia of trying to poison her coffee and pushing her into an electric fence.

In this April 2013 Indianapolis Star file photo, 14-year-old Jacob Barnett, right, smiles as his mother Kristine Barnett shows off her new book, at their Westfield home.  The genius boy, who is autistic, enjoys the theoretical study of physics, as well as mathematics, including trigonometry.  His mother, wrote the book, "The Spark: The Story of a Nurturing Genius Mother."

Natalia told Dr. Phil – Dr. Phillip C. McGraw – that she hadn’t tried to kill or hurt the family, and explained the fence incident as losing her balance while getting up and falling on Kristine after the two stopped to rest. a family hike.

Continued:Natalia Grace shares what it was like to be Michael and Kristine Barnetts’ adopted daughter

Between 2010 and 2012, Natalia underwent medical and psychological evaluations at Marion County facilities at the request of the Barnetts, according to court documents.

In June 2012, the Barnetts petitioned a Marion County court to change Natalia’s birth year from 2003 to 1989, changing her from an 8-year-old girl three months shy of her ninth birthday to a woman of 22 years old, according to the court. documents.

At no time during the re-aging process did the court appoint an attorney to represent Natalia’s legal interests or present her defense against the petition.

Natalia was hospitalized in Marion County when she learned she was aging, court records show.

This stroke of the pen by a judge shielded the Barnetts from investigations by the Department of Children’s Services, as Natalia was an adult, and later shielded the Barnetts during an adult protection investigation in Lafayette.

It also protected the Barnetts from being sued for neglect of a dependent due to Natalia’s age. Prosecutors are still suing the Barnetts for negligence due to Natalia’s addiction because of her dwarfism.

Natalia’s transition to adulthood

The Barnetts claim in court papers that after changing Natalia’s birth year, they got her an apartment in Hamilton County, got her federal disability benefits and social services.

When Natalia’s lease ended in July 2013, the Barnetts moved her to a Lafayette apartment on North 11th Street.

Michael and Kristine Barnett rented one of the apartments in this house in the 900 block of North 11th Street for their adopted daughter.  Then the rest of the family moved to Canada so that Barnett's prodigy son could study at the Perimeter Institute.

The Barnetts claim in court documents that they paid Natalia’s rent for a year. The day she moved to Lafayette was the last time Natalia saw Kristine Barnett, and she saw Michael Barnett once more, according to court records.

Natalia was 9 years old when she moved into her Lafayette apartment, based on her Ukrainian birth certificates. Legally, until now, she was 23, based on a court-ordered age change.

After setting Natalia up in her Lafayette apartment, the Barnetts and their two sons moved to Canada, where Jacob began college.

The legal case as presented in court

Prosecutors filed four charges of neglect of a dependent due to Natalia’s age that allegedly occurred prior to July 1, 2014. They also filed four charges of neglect of a dependent due to the Natalia’s age, alleging the neglect occurred after July 1, 2014.

Charges filed before July 1, 2014 were dismissed because the statute of limitations for filing charges expired.

Prosecutors alleged Natalia’s aging hampered the state’s investigation and should not be blamed on the statute of limitations because the Barnetts used it to cover up the alleged crimes.

Tippecanoe 2 Superior Judge Steve Meyer ruled against prosecutors in August 2020, saying the time to file charges had passed. An appeals court opinion published in August 2021 upheld Meyer’s decision.

Meyer also ruled in August 2020 that he could not reverse Natalia’s court-ordered aging. Thus, the four allegations of dependent neglect after July 1, 2014 must be dismissed if the allegations are based on the argument that Natalia was a minor.

If, however, the allegations in all four counts are that the Barnetts neglected Natalia because she was dependent on them because of her dwarfism, the case can proceed.

The Indiana Court of Appeals also upheld Meyer’s decision in that case.

This is the path the prosecutors have chosen to follow.

A hearing on Friday set Michael Barnett’s trial for September 12 and Kristine Barnett’s for October 24.

Contact Ron Wilkins at [email protected] Follow on Twitter: @RonWilkins2.

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