Ukrainian orphan with dwarfism left alone in apartment, adoptive parents charged with neglect.
The adoptive parents of Natalia Grace, a Ukrainian orphan, claim their daughter could be as old as 33 and her adoption was a scam. When the couple adopted Natalia in 2010, they were told she was between 6 and 8 years old, but said they soon learned they’d been duped by an adult woman with dwarfism.
Two years into the matter, Kristine Barnett, Natalia’s mother – who was also a motivational speaker and parenting author, and her now-former husband, Michael Barnett, supposedly uncovered the truth regarding the Ukrainian’s age and filed a motion with the Marion County Superior Court over the matter. It was ultimately ordered that the birth year on her certificate to be to be changed from 2003 to 1989. This meant Natalia’s age went from ten years old to twenty-two overnight.
Afterwards, the couple set Natalia up in an apartment and left her there while they moved to Canada. They haven’t had contact with her since, but in September 2019, authorities charged them with two counts of felony neglect of a dependent.
According to the Barnetts, Natalia “threatened to stab the couple, including their three children, in their sleep, pushed Kristine toward an electric fence and poured bleach in her coffee.” Michael also stated that Natalia “was caught pouring Pine-Sol into Kristine’s coffee and, once confronted, said, ‘I’m trying to kill you.’” He also claimed Natalia could not speak any Ukrainian.
On the very first night, in fact, the couple said they were given pause, claiming Kristine was bathing Natalia and noticed she had full pubic hair. They then allegedly noticed she had been covering up her menstrual cycle by tucking away bloody clothing in her closet.
Natalia said it was after her first surgery for spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita, the dwarfism she was born with, that Kristine began to question her age. She is unsure whether the commitment became too much for the couple.
Natalia has connected with a new family – Antwon Mans, 36, an ordained pastor, and his wife Cynthia, 39. They have five other children and believe she is only 16. They deny that Natalia is an adult posing as a child.
Yet, it is hard for skeptics to believe she could have lived in an apartment alone for an entire year while still very young.
“I actually didn’t even go grocery shopping,” Natalia said. “My landlord took me to a gas station or something just to get a couple of things. The Barnetts had given me food, like canned foods and stuff like that.”
A neighbor near Natalia’s former residence in Indiana remembered a girl attending classes at Lafayette Adult Resource Academy. “She quit coming to class, and we didn’t know what happened to her,” Margaret Axsom said. She believes her classmate could have been Natalie.
A gag order was issued last month against the Barnetts to prevent them from speaking to the media. Both pleaded not guilty of the charges against them during an initial hearing, and a trial date has been set for January 28. This month, Natalia was added to the order.
Natalia’s birth mother was contacted and has contested the claims regarding her age. “I know exactly how old she is,” Anna Volodymyrivna Gava said. “This girl is my daughter, who was born 16 years ago.”